Prairie Dogs And E. Coli Near Bryce Canyon National Park

Jun 4, 2018

Prairie dogs near Bryce Canyon National Park, like this pair threaten the park's water supply.
Credit National Park Service

According to Linda Mazzu, superintendent at Bryce Canyon National Park, a high water table has caused the water source for Bryce Canyon National Park to flow through prairie dog burrows before it enters the treatment facility.

"Prairie dogs burry very close to our domestic water well, and it’s a shallow water well so at times of high water table, sometimes there can be contamination," she said.

Bryce Canyon National Park is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take precautions against contamination by building an exclusion fence.

"The fence goes down 6 feet into the ground. We have a visual barrier so the prairie dogs can’t see in and we constructed the fence it's in," Mazzu said. "We moved as many dogs as we could before they went into hibernation. And now we’re just finishing up, starting in June to relocate the last of the prairie dogs, there’s only a few left."

Due to their endangered status, there are federal protections for prairie dogs. But local officials, including Bryce Canyon City’s mayor Shiloh Syrett, have expressed their frustration.  

"Bryce Canyon National Park, you know their hands are tied because the federal Fish and Wildlife don’t allow them to take the action to protect the public because it is an endangered species. And it is frustrating when prairie dogs take a precedent over public safety," Syrett said. 

Tourists should not be concerned because the water in Bryce Canyon National Park is safe to drink.

"We’re really happy to report that our water is safe and we are working right now with Garfield County and our other partners to make sure that we can do the best we can when it comes to ridding ourselves of having to worry about any E. coli contamination," Mazzu said. "The main message is we all have the same mutual purpose and desire and that is for good water quality and to make sure that we can relocate and protect these prairie dogs."