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Know the West

Sewage reservoir dogs

  A threatened species of prairie dogs in Utah is on the verge of burrowing through sewage lagoons at Bryce Canyon National Park. Staffer Richard Bryant says in a worst-case scenario the lagoons could collapse, closing bathroom facilities and forcing the park to shut down. An estimated 27 prairie dogs, one-sixth of the estimated Bryce Canyon population, might also be driven away by the flood of untreated human waste. Resource management officials put up fake hawks around the lagoons, but the rodents quickly caught on and continued their digging. Bryant says the sewage lagoon is preferred habitat for prairie dogs because of its soft soil for tunneling and sparse vegetation: Prairie dogs like to see predators coming. The solution, officials say, is to move the animals to a location two miles away. But since the Utah prairie dog is listed as a threatened species, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service must approve the relocation plan. Bryant says he hopes to begin moving the prairie dogs before September, when the rodents begin to hibernate.