The Utah prairie dog lives in large colonies that sometimes contain thousands of residents. Within each colony, individuals live in territorial family groups called ‘clans’, which typically contain one sexually mature adult male (at least one year old) and two or three sexually mature adult females (8) (9) (10).
The Utah prairie dog is primarily a herbivore that feeds on grasses, flowers, and seeds, but it sometimes eats insects as well (11). It is a diurnal rodent, and in good weather forages above ground from shortly after dawn until shortly after sunset (2) (3).
The Utah prairie dog hibernates for several months of each year. Emergence from hibernation depends on altitude and other factors, but usually occurs in March and April. Males usually enter and emerge from hibernation one to two weeks before females (8) (9) (10).
The mating season for the Utah prairie dog is usually in late March through early April, during which time each female is sexually receptive for only several hours on a single day. Gestation lasts for 28 to 31 days, and females rear their offspring in separate nursery burrows. The juveniles remain underground for five to six weeks after birth until they are weaned, and a litter of one to seven young first appears above ground in late May or early June (8) (9). Only about 50 percent of young survive the first year after weaning. Should it survive that first vulnerable year, the Utah prairie dog may live as long as eight years (8) (9). Female Utah prairie dogs usually first mate and successfully wean their first litter when they are one year old. Males sometimes mate when they are one year old, but commonly delay first mating until they are two years old (8) (9).
Predators of the Utah prairie dog are numerous (8) (10), and include American badgers (Taxidea taxus), coyotes (Canis latrans), long-tailed weasels (Mustela frenata), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), golden eagles (Aquilachrysaetos), northern goshawks (Accipiter gentilis), and prairie falcons (Falco mexicanus). Juveniles and females in late pregnancy (when they cannot run fast) are especially vulnerable to predation, as are males during the mating season. A Utah prairie dog commonly gives an alarm call when it sees a predator; the most common callers are females with young offspring within earshot (8).