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Contact: Sarah Haas, 435-834-4753
Bryce Canyon National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh invites you to join the park in our second annual Utah Prairie Dog Day celebration.
The theme of this year’s Utah Prairie Dog Day celebration is "Connections in Nature" – Bryce Canyon National Park is celebrating the unique and important role that Utah prairie dogs play in our environment. A year-round inhabitant of Bryce Canyon’s high plateau meadows, Utah prairie dogs 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. 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. Connecting with Utah prairie dogs can help humans learn about healthy ecosystems and the important role that one species can play in maintaining the diversity of life.
The Utah Prairie Dog has been federally listed under the Endangered Species Act since 1973 and is protected as a threatened species. Bryce Canyon National Park reintroduced the Utah prairie dog to park meadows beginning in 1974 and is the only National Park Service unit they inhabit. Today, approximately 200 Utah prairie dogs are found in several meadows within the park. Every year these colonies are monitored and counted to track the health of the animals and condition of their habitat.
Park Biologist Sarah Haas states, "This year’s celebration of the Utah prairie dog will focus on how these animals are instrumental to the well being of other plants and animals and the importance of the role of prairie dogs in sustaining grassland environments. There will be plenty of opportunities to watch prairie dogs living in their natural settings – foraging, watching for predators and displaying an amazing array of barks, chirps and chatters that make up prairie dog language. They are a fascinating animal – one worth knowing!"
="3">The celebration will occur on Friday, June 24, 2011 from 9 a.m. through the evening with planned activities that include watching Utah prairie dogs in their natural habitat with a Park Ranger, special presentations on Utah prairie dogs, kids’ tables with activities, and face painting and refreshments. There will also be a special surprise guest! Most activities will take place during the day at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center with a special presentation entitled "Utah Prairie Dogs and Other Cool Critters" at the Bryce Canyon Lodge at 8 p.m.
Utah students and adults are invited to participate in the Connections in Nature art contest! Artwork should focus on how Utah prairie dogs are an important part of our environment. Age categories for the art contest are: K–4th, 5th–8th, 9th–12th, and adult (18 years+). Students in the K-4th category are allowed to color in a drawing of a prairie dog town (contact Marilyn Bulkley for a copy of the drawing). All other age categories should submit original artwork – crayon, pen or pencil sketches, markers, watercolor, oils, etc. On the back of your artwork write: title of artwork, name of artist, age category, and a phone number or contact information.
All artwork must be submitted by June 15th to:
Marilyn Bulkley, Education/Outreach Specialist
Bryce Canyon Natural History Association
P.O. Box 640051, Bryce, UT 84764
Entries will be judged by Bryce Canyon National Park and Natural History Association staff. First place and runner up prizes will be awarded on the afternoon of June 24th at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center.
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!