Cynomys parvidens

Utah Prairie Dog

FWS Focus


Prairie dogs belong to the Sciuridae family of rodents, which also includes squirrels, chipmunks, and marmots. There are five species of prairie dogs, all of which are native to North America and all of which have non-overlapping geographic ranges (Hoogland 1995; Hoogland 2003). Taxonomically, prairie dogs are divided into two subgenera (Hoogland 1995): white-tailed and black-tailed. The Utah prairie dog is a member of the white-tailed group, subgenus Leucocrossuromys. Other members of this group, which also occur in Utah, are the white-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus) and the Gunnison prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni). The Utah prairie dog is widely recognized as a distinct species (Zeveloff 1988; Hoogland 1995). The Utah prairie dog is most closely related to the white-tailed prairie dog. These two species may have once belonged to a single interbreeding species (Pizzimenti 1975), but they are now separated by ecological and physiographic barriers. The type locality for the Utah prairie dog is Buckskin Valley in Iron County, Utah (Pizzimenti and Collier 1975, p. 1). Genetic variance within Utah prairie dog populations is very low – less than half that commonly observed for black tailed prairie dogs (Chesser 1984; Ritchie and Brown 2005)). This may be the result of genetic drift in small populations (Chesser 1984). The Utah prairie dog’s color is cinnamon to dark buffy cinnamon mixed with small amounts of buff or blackish hairs. This species can be distinguished from the two other white-tailed species by a black spot above the eye (Pizzimenti and Collier 1975), a brown cheek patch, the cinnamon to clay coloration of the dorsum and the proximal half of the tail, and the all-white terminal half of the tail (Hollister 1916). However, color alone is not considered a reliable tool to differentiate between prairie dog species (Hoogland 2003). Adult Utah prairie dogs range in total body length from 250 to 400 mm (9.8 to 15.7 in.) including a tail length of 30 to 65 mm (1.2 to 2.6 in.) (Hollister 1916; Hoogland 1995). Adult males weigh between 750 and 1,410 grams (g) (1.7 to 3.1 pounds (lbs)) and adult females weigh between 640 to 1,140 g (1.4 to 2.5 lbs) (Wright Smith 1978). Body weight varies by sex and season. For example, in spring, male body mass ranges from 300 to 900 g (0.7 to 2 lbs) but by late summer or early fall, their body mass ranges from 500 to 1500 g (1.1 to 3.3 lbs) (Hoogland 1995).

Scientific Name

Cynomys parvidens
Common Name
Utah Prairie Dog
FWS Category

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers



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