100 Prairie Dogs Seized and Left Homeless... What Now?
Early Tuesday morning, April 7, Colorado state wildlife officials seized more than 100 prairie dogs from a Castle Rock woman's garage. Now they have no place to go, after a New Mexico ranch that previously agreed to take on the animals has rescinded its offer.
Malia Reeves was reportedly sobbing earlier this week, sad to see the prairie dogs go after their extended stay in her garage in Castle Rock, Colorado. However, Reeves is no pet hoarder. According to the Denver Post, Reeves was one of two women who volunteered to care for the animals and give them a temporary place to stay after they were rescued from a controversial shopping mall development site, where they had been trapped.
And that kind of scenario, where prairie dogs are doomed to lose their homes from encroaching human development, is not exactly uncommon. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reports that North America's black tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludocicianus) has been seeing declining population numbers for decades, losing a stunning 37 percent of available habitat to development and fragmentation around the turn of the century alone. (Scroll to read on...)
However, with colonies found in Mexico, the southwest United States, and even some parts of Canada, the species' overall population remains healthy, with the US Fish and Wildlife Service estimating that they number around a stunning 18,420,000 (as of 2004).
Because of this, current US law allows contractors to kill entire colonies if they are in the way of a region's economic development. Relocation, however, is preferable.
That's why Bold Visions Conservation stepped in after it was revealed that there was a colony of about 115 prairie dogs living where a $177 million Promenade project, which will yield a 1-million-square-foot shopping mall later this year, broke ground.
The animals had been captured for relocation by the New Mexico-based environmental group, but soon after, it was revealed that no permit for relocation to a ranch in New Mexico had been issued. Soon after, the ranch rescinded its offer to take on the prairie dogs.
That's how they wound up in Reeves' garage, but Colorado officials later said they could not stay there long.
As things stand, the animals are healthy and safe, being housed at a Colorado Parks and Wildlife facility, but even this is likely to be a temporary stay.
Still, don't fret for the animals too much. Trent Botkin, an independent contractor who helped capture the critters, told local media that in his 12 years working in animal relocation, he has never seen animals taken from their home and moved around just to eventually be exterminated.
"Once you take them back out [of the ground], you don't put them back in," he told the Post.
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