Perceptions of Wildlife Damage and Species Conservation: Lessons Learned from the Utah Prairie Dog

Document Type


Journal/Book Title

Human-Wildlife Conflict

Publication Date






First Page


Last Page



The Utah prairie dog (Cynomys parvidens), a federally listed threatened species, causes damage to agricultural operations, yet little incentive exists for private landowners to conserve them. Therefore, we surveyed Utah residents to identify stakeholder attitudes regarding prairie dog management. We assessed how perceptions of wildlife damage affect respondent attitudes regarding conservation among agricultural producers, rural residents, and urban residents. Higher levels of perceived wildlife damage were reported for agriculture respondents (79%) than for urban (20%) or rural (45%) respondents. Compensation for damage caused by Utah prairie dogs was supported by those engaged in agricultural production but not by rural or urban respondents. Agricultural producers, rural residents and urban residents all stated a preference for private conservation organizations to fund damage compensation rather than a government agency. Most agricultural respondents (61%) and rural respondents (64%) believed that Utah prairie dogs should be only on public lands. Some agricultural respondents (23%) thought they should be on no land. Attitudes regarding the Utah prairie dog varied, with agricultural producers being the most negative and urban respondents the most positive. The negative attitude of rural residents and agricultural producers probably results from both the damage caused by Utah prairie dogs and land-use restrictions resulting from the species being listed as threatened. Acceptance of Utah prairie dogs by private landowners may be key to the recovery of the species, and our findings suggest that alleviation of damage issues may increase landowner acceptance of conservation measures to protect Utah prairie dogs.