Utah Prairie Dog Day at Bryce Canyon is Friday, June 22, 2012. Park events begin at 9:00AM with activities planned all-day long that include watching Utah prairie dogs in their natural habitat with a Park Ranger, special presentations on Utah prairie dogs and educational tables with fun activities for kids and adults.
Special guest “Petey, the Prairie Dog” will be popping up from his burrow throughout the day! All daytime activities will take place at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center.
The theme of this year’s Utah Prairie Dog Day celebration is “Appreciating the Under Appreciated Utah Prairie Dog”. Bryce Canyon National Park will highlight the important and often misunderstood role of the Utah prairie dogs in our environment. Utah prairie dogs are considered “keystone species” that perform a variety of important ecological functions including soil aeration which helps plants grow, providing prey for other animals and maintaining meadow ecosystems.
Dr. Nicki Frey, a Utah State University Extension Wildlife Specialist and Professor is this year’s guest speaker. He will present "Appreciating the Under-dog" at the Bryce Canyon Lodge at 8:00 p.m.
Utah prairie dogs are year-round inhabitants of Bryce Canyon’s high plateau meadows. They live in social colonies or “towns” and display amazingly complex communication. Their burrow systems are made up of several chambers and provide the animals with protection from predators, places to raise young, store food, and hibernate through the cold winter months.
Appreciating the Utah prairie dog and understanding its beneficial role in the environment can help man learn about healthy ecosystems and the critical role that every species plays in maintaining the diversity of life.
Park Biologist Sarah Haas said, "This year’s celebration of the Utah prairie dog focuses on understanding and appreciating the role of the Utah prairie dog in sustaining healthy habitat for a large variety of wildlife. Over 200 species have been associated with prairie dog colonies, including species that either depend upon or directly benefit by prairie dog activity for survival. Although it can be difficult to appreciate a species that interferes with human activity and livelihood, the Utah prairie dog has an important role to play in the environment that positively impacts the natural world."
Utah students in classes K-6th at Bryce Valley and Panguitch Elementary schools participated in a poster contest this year. Artwork depicting Utah prairie dogs was submitted and judged by Bryce Canyon National Park and Natural History Association staff. First place winners from each class were selected with the grand prize winner’s artwork used on this year’s Utah Prairie Dog Day official poster. The park is proud to present Panguitch 6th grader, Katy Bair's drawing, as this year’s poster contest winner! Over 300 entries were submitted and the students did outstanding work. All students (K-12th) and their families can enter the park free on Utah Prairie Dog Day. Just tell the Park Ranger at the entrance gate: “I’m here to see the Utah prairie dogs!” and you’ll be admitted for free!
For additional information about Prairie Dog Day and the world famous unique geology of hoodoos, go to Bryce Canyon National Park.