Hundreds of prairie dogs relocated to new homes
Hundreds of prairie dogs relocated to new homes In this Aug. 6, 2015 photo, a prairie dog is released at a new colony after being trucked some 25 miles away from Cedar City, Utah. State biologists were out this summer rounding up prairie dogs that have overrun a small southern Utah town and moving them where they can’t wreak havoc. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Hundreds of prairie dogs relocated to new homes
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Most mornings Jessica Van Woeart and her team go to work they are armed with peanut butter. She is a wildlife biologist.
They use the peanut butter to help trap prairie dogs in subdivisions across rural pastures in southern Utah. Then they move them away from residents who have been under siege from the small burrowing rodents for years.
Van Woeart's team is doing something that was pretty rare and difficult until last year. That's when a federal court judge removed endangered species protections for the Utah prairie dog.
Activists say the ruling could weaken protections for similar animals all over the country. 
The Utah prairie dog is the smallest of five species. It lives in underground colonies in the southern part of the state. Thought to be key to the ecosystem, their numbers dropped quickly as land was cleared to make way for farming, ranching and housing. They were listed as endangered in 1973.
With federal protection, the population recovered to about 28,000 as of this spring. That's according to state tallies. They were upgraded to threatened.
But the animals felt anything but rare to locals. They chafed under federal rules that kept any moving or trapping of prairie dogs to a minimum.
"They're really cute little things. But they really cause so much damage," said Sharon Peterson. She is a Cedar City resident. Her backyard used to look like a sea of the little squirrel-like creatures.
A group of residents sued in 2013. After U.S. District Judge Dee Benson's ruling, the ranks of prairie dogs near Peterson's house fell under the state's new trapping program.
Heading it up is Van Woeart. She is a petite New Jersey native with boundless energy. A sign on her office wall reads "Keep Calm and Love Prairie Dogs."
On most mornings her technicians bait wire rectangular traps with peanut butter in and around Cedar City. The growing city is about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City.
They check them every hour or so. And they're usually not let down. Some days, they catch more than 100. After they're caught, the creatures are weighed and tagged. Then they are taken for an hour-long drive over hills covered with sage and yellow grasses.
Their new homes are prepared ahead of time. They are a system of man-made burrows made from irrigation piping and plastic boxes and buried underground. The workers hold the traps over the new burrows. Then they open the door and let the dogs scurry inside.
On a recent day, the brown-eyed animals nibble on bits of zucchini or sound their distinctive, clicking bark to their new neighbors. They live on public land about 25 miles outside of Cedar City. It's different than the suburban burrows they've left behind. It is higher and drier, with different food and predators.
About 2,500 animals were caught this summer. They were turned loose in a series of similar sites.
The workers leave food and water and try to keep the highly social animals together to ease the change. But many won't survive in the new environment. After a year, just 10 to 15 percent of the creatures typically remain at their new sites, said Keith Day. He is a state wildlife biologist who oversees the prairie dog program. Though some leave, many die.
"When you pick an animal up out of its natural setting and you move it to a new location ... you can expect a fairly high mortality rate," Day said. Still, he said that trapping an animal and moving it is better than the lethal methods that fed-up locals used to employ off the books, while federal rules held sway.
"People have been taking care of their own problems," Day said. "If we can put a prairie dog out on federal land and get a colony out of it, that's better than letting somebody shoot it."

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Why did residents need to sue to have prairie dogs removed?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • luciam-pel
    10/06/2015 - 09:11 a.m.

    residents needed them move because there were to many of them around the area. Everyone didn't want them anymore that they were always on people property. I think that its horrible that the people hat to sue and move them away from there homes. they should have been treated right.

  • skylarb-pel
    10/06/2015 - 09:12 a.m.

    The article is tell us how and what they did to Prairie dogs. The first thing they did was get the prairie dogs Then they would weight it. The test it then move it.

  • annaz-pel
    10/06/2015 - 09:13 a.m.

    This passage is about prairie dogs in Southern Utah and how they are moving the prairie dogs to a new location because the prairie dogs are causing to much damage.

  • trifenag-pel
    10/06/2015 - 09:22 a.m.

    In my opinion, the residents needed to sue to have prairie dogs removed because they were over populating and they were upgraded to threatened.

  • juliamc-pel
    10/06/2015 - 10:03 a.m.

    The residents needed to sue to have the prairie dogs removed from their backyards because there was a law at that time that you couldn't trap the prairie dogs, so they had to sue because they needed a reason to get the prairie dogs moved.

  • laurenw-pel
    10/06/2015 - 10:04 a.m.

    Why did residents need to sue to have prairie dogs removed?Because the judge ruled that the ranks of prairie dogs near their houses fell under the states new trapping program.

  • andya-pel
    10/06/2015 - 10:04 a.m.

    Residents need to sue them,because they were protected by federal protection and the states law.

  • blaisem-pel
    10/06/2015 - 10:04 a.m.

    They was making problems for the residents,they didn't want to kill them they wanted them taken away humanly and without harming them.

  • mauricioz-pel
    10/06/2015 - 10:05 a.m.

    Residents need to sue them, because they were protected by federal protection & the state laws.

  • coltonl-pel
    10/06/2015 - 10:07 a.m.

    Wildlife biologist Jessica Van Woeart and her team went and trapped many prairie dogs to relocate them to a new home to keep the dogs from destroying peoples homes and wreaking havoc in the community so Woeart and her team baited traps and relocated the dogs to their new home.

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