SALT LAKE CITY -- Federal wildlife officials say the Utah prairie dog doesn't warrant stronger protections under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded there was insufficient scientific data in a petition that sought to reclassify the animal from threatened to endangered. The finding will be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday.
The environmental group WildEarth Guardians sought more protections so people wouldn't be able to harass, kill or remove the rodents.
State officials and residents in central and southwestern Utah counties have been fighting federal regulations on the rodent they claim hurt economic development. Current law allows the removal of up to 6,000 prairie dogs per year.
The Utah prairie dog population is about 10,000, down from about 95,000 in the 1920s.