Great Basin Naturalist


Utah prairie dogs were transplanted onto the site of a former colony, located in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. Shrubs on the site were significantly taller than those found on active colonies in similar habitat located on the Awapa Plateau. Therefore, the transplant site afforded a test of the hypothesis that shrub height is a major inhibitory factor affecting occupation of sites by prairie dogs. Four sites of 5 ha each were used. Vegetation treatments—rotobeating, railing, and 2,4-D herbicide—were carried out on three of the sites and the fourth was used as a control. Shrub height and percent cover were significantly reduced on all three treatment sites. Posttreatment effects on the vegetation showed that the greatest percent moisture of the herbage was found on the railed site, followed by the herbicide, rotobeaten, and control sites. Measurements of the visual obstructions to prairie dogs showed that the rotobeaten site had the greatest visibility, followed by the railed, herbicide, and control sites. Prior to release of prairie dogs on the study area, 200 artificial burrows per treatment were dug, using a power auger. In early summer, 1979, 200 Utah prairie dogs were live-trapped near Loa, Utah. An equal number by sex and age class were released on each treatment. In 1979 a significantly higher number of animals reestablished on the rotobeaten site. In 1980 and 1981 the rotobeaten and railed sites had significantly higher prairie dog numbers than the other sites. Reproduction occurred on both the rotobeaten and railed sites in 1980 and 1981. Results indicated that, when transplanting animals onto sites of former colonies presently overgrown with shrubs, the chances of a successful transplant could be increased by first reducing shrub height and density.