No shooting prairie dogs as of April 1

Photo courtesy of Torli Roberts

White-tailed prairie dogs that live in Coyote Basin in northeastern Utah and Utah prairie dogs are fully protected—you can’t shoot them.

The rest of Utah’ prairie dogs in Utah will join that protected list as for a short period of time as of April 1.

Protecting prairie dogs

Just like game animals, Utah has a hunting season for Gunnison’s and white-tailed prairie dogs:

  • From April 1 to June 15, hunting for Gunnison’s and white-tailed prairie dogs is prohibited on public land across Utah.  The closure does not apply to private property, however.
  • On private property, a landowner and those to whom the landowner has give permission can hunt Gunnison’s and white-tailed prairie dogs year-round.

Tony Wright, a sensitive species biologist with the Division of Wildlife Resources, said the shooting closure is designed to help Gunnison’s and white-tailed prairie dogs, which are considered sensitive species in Utah.

Wright said many wildlife species depend on prairie dogs for food.

“Black-footed ferrets, birds of prey, ground predators—all of these species eat prairie dogs,” he said.

Protecting prairie dogs during their spring breeding season is very important, he added.

“The shooting closure helps ensure the prairie dogs can give birth to their young and raise their pups successfully,” Wright said.

Some areas closed year round

In some areas of Utah, prairie dogs may not be hunted, no matter what time of year it is:

Utah prairie dogs may not be hunted.

Utah prairie dogs live in a large area in southwestern Utah.  That area includes all of the state south of Delta and west of Capitol Reef National Park.

Utah prairie dogs are fully protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Also, you may not hunt white-tailed prairie dogs in Coyote Basin in northeastern Utah. Black-footed ferrets, a federally protected species that lives in the area, feed almost exclusively on white-tailed prairie dogs.

Finding Gunnison’s and white-tailed prairie dogs

Starting June 16, hunting is allowed only for white-tailed and Gunnison’s prairie dogs.

In Utah, Gunnison’s prairie dogs can be found east of the Colorado River.  White-tailed prairie dogs are found in other spots in eastern Utah.

A license is not needed to hunt prairie dogs in Utah, now is there a bag limit.

Shooting reminders

When the season reopens on June 16, please keep the following in mind:

  • Before you pull the trigger, make sure of your target.  Burrowing owls and long-billed curlews—birds that may not be hunted—are among the wildlife species that have been killed by people shooting at prairie dogs.
  • Cottontail rabbits—which use the same burrows prairie dogs use—have also been killed by prairie dog shooters.
  • Cottontail rabbits may be taken only during the cottontail rabbit hunting season.  The season is held in the fall and winter.
  • Consider using non-lead ammunition. Using non-lead ammunition will lessen the chance that birds and animals contract lead poisoning from eating dead prairie dogs.

For more information, call the DWR’s Southeastern Region office at (435) 613-3700 or the agency’s Northeastern Region office at (435) 781-9453.

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