Prairie Dogs: A Modern Day Plague

Prairie Dogs: A Modern Day Plague

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Prairie Dogs ? A Modern Day Plague

Almost Every Morning on the plains of eastern

Colorado, rancher Ken Holmes squints through a

riflescope and sights in on a fat, little prairie dog.

At the blink of an eye, he pulls the trigger and a

hollow-tipped slug erupts from the barrel. Two

hundred yards later, the slug explodes in the prairie

dog scattering its ravaged flesh across the plains.

Some people say that this is a horrible act, but for

ranchers like Ken Holmes, it's away to save his

grazing fields.

The prairie dog is a controversial animal because many

people perceive them to be a prolific nuisance.

Shooting and poisoning has reduced an extremely large

population, which once covered most of the western

U.S. and northern Mexico. In Texas, the historic

population at the turn of the century in 1900 was

estimated to be approximately 5.5 billion animals.

Today, numbers of prairie dogs in Texas are estimated

at only 300,000 (cdri). Maybe if these numbers keep

decreasing at such an alarming rate, the prairie dog

problem may actually come to an end. So no local,

state, or federal government should try to bring these

numbers up.

This animal digs gigantic burrows, and makes extensive

tunnels underneath the Earth's surface (bitterroot).

This natural act the prairie dog makes kills grass and

destroys fields taking away feed for cattle and crops

for food. Many scientists believe that this act is a

natural fertilizer, giving nutrients back to the soil

(National Geographic p.116). If this natural act is a

fertilizer, then why are many ranchers and farmers

faced with a loss of money. Usually due to the fact

that these burrows take up a wide range of they're

fields making it difficult to grow and raise anything

for a profit. Also, if this fertilizing act actually

fertilizes the land, then why is it that they seem to

destroy a field rather than help it?

Rather than try to shoot them or poison them, some

have tried to set aside protected areas, and relocate

the prairie dogs. In Boulder, Colorado, approximately

20,000 feet of visual barrier was installed along

boundaries of these protected areas. The cost of that

was $23,000, but that figure represents only enough to

cover about 7.5% of the perimeter surrounding the

area. It would require an additional $242,350 to

finish that barrier. Instead of this expensive

barrier, relocating them was the second option. In

order to do this, it would cost upwards of $100,000

just to move them somewhere else (ci boulder). That

is a lot of money to be throwing around on an animal

that not many people like. If people were going to

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raise and spend that kind of money, the prairie dogs

would have a better chance with riflemen than relying

on groups to raise that significantly high amount of


Another big issue surrounding the prairie dog

is of the diseases they carry. One particular disease

is the deadly bubonic plague. Prairie dogs are very

susceptible to this plague, they acquiring it from

fleas infected with plague bacteria (Desert U.S.A.).

According to scientists, the plague is now widespread

through much of the prairie dog's range (bitterroot).

No one really has anything to say

about why the prairie dogs should be taken out because

of this issue. If a prairie dog were to come in

contact with a human, that human could then be

infected with

the plague. Again, there have been efforts to stop

this by the relocation of these animals. When this

relocation process takes place, the bubonic plague

would just follow right along, and could even then

still come in contact with people: and if they were to

come in contact with people, we would have to relocate

them again and again until they aren't in any contact.

There is no telling when this process would end.

With what prairie dogs can do, and what they

can bring, it is surprising that people want to help

them. All of those helping the prairie dog need to

reconsider their actions. Based on the information

provided, these people need to step back and think if

the prairie dog is really worth saving.

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