Throughout summer 2018, ACE Mountain-West had crews on a habitat restoration project with Bryce Canyon National Park. With the goal of protecting the threatened Utah Prairie Dog, the crews worked to remove rubber rabbitbrush around existing prairie dog habitat.
Facing habitat loss, plague, predation and livestock grazing in their habitat, the Utah Prairie Dog population has taken a hit. In the 1920s an attempt to control their populations by poisoning the colonies and agricultural and grazing activities devastated the population. By the early 1970s, the Utah Prairie Dog had been eliminated from major portions of its historical range and had declined to an estimated 3,300 individuals distributed among 37 Utah Prairie Dog colonies.
Today the populations have increased and stabilized, but there is still work being done to maintain these numbers, especially in Bryce Canyon National Park where recent exposure to the plague have impacted population numbers. Prairie dogs burrow underground to build their homes as protection from predators. They do this in groups, burrowing extensive channels called “towns” to live in with their clan. Rabbitbrush grows too high for the prairie dogs to be able to spot their prey so in turn, when the brush grows to high the prairie dogs will abandon their “towns.”
To combat this, our ACE crew, led ACE Crew Leader by Katey Hockenbury worked to remove invasive brush around their habitat within the Park. The crew tracked their progress with pin flags and GPS coordinates in the sea of rabbitbrush they were removing.