Date of Award:

1-1-1980

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Philip J. Urness

Abstract

Utah prairie dogs were transplanted onto the site of a former colony located on Jones Bench in the northwestern corner of Capitol Reef National Park. Shrubs on Jones Bench were significantly taller than those found on active colonies of Ut ah prairie dogs located nearby on the Awapa Plateau. Therefore, the Jones Bench site offered an opportunity to test the hypothesis that shrub height is a major inhibitory factor on occupation of sites by prairie dogs. Four sites of 5 ha each were delimited on Jones Bench prior to the transplanting o~ animals. Vegetation treatments were carried out on three of the sites and the fourth was used as a nonmanipulated control . Mechanical treatments by rotobeating and railing were accomplished in late August, 1978. A herbicidal treatment (2,4-D) was done on the third site in the spring of 1979. Shrub height and percent cover were significantly reduced on all three treatment sites.

Post-treatment effects on the vegetation during the first year showed that the greatest percent moisture in herbage was found on the railed site, followed by the herbicide, rotobeaten, and control sites. Herbage production was approximately three times greater on the rotobeaten and railed sites than on the control and herbicide sites. Measurements of the visual obstructions of 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 arranged in a matrix, were dug with an enginepowered post-hole auger on each site. In late June and early July, 1979, 200 Utah prairie dogs were live-trapped near Loa, Utah. A total of 50 immature males, immature females, mature males, and mature females were released on each site. The animal's fur was dyed with a specific mark representing their respective transplant site before their release. The transplanted animals were monitored daily for 23 consecutive days following the release of the first animals and biweekly thereafter throughout the summer and early fall. Significant differences were found in the number of animals reestablished on each site except between the herbicide treatment and control site. The majority of all animals transplanted moved onto the rotobeaten site; the railed, herbicide, and control sites were selected in decreasing order. Results indicated that when transplanting animals onto sites of former colonies, particularly sites that are overgrown with shrubs, the chances of a successful transplant could be increased by first reducing shrub height and density. Proof of reestablishment at the Jones Bench site will be evident if reproduction is observed in the spring of 1980.

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