Most taxpayers don’t want their money spent poisoning innocent wildlife, when conservationists have made arrangements to relocate them for free, but that doesn’t seem relevant to city officials of Clovis, New Mexico. On Friday, at the eleventh hour, the city commission voted to stop the relocation effort.
Prairie dogs can’t seem to catch a break.
They are a vital ecosystem species treasured by naturists, many private landowners and are enjoyed by tourists in wildlife parks. Relocation has become a viable solution when prairie dogs encroach onto areas that interfere with human activity, but they still get a bad rap from ranchers, farmers and some community officials where they are unwanted and considered to be nothing more than pests.
Currently, there is a clash happening in Clovis, New Mexico over the free and humane removal of “nuisance” prairie dogs and the city commissioner’s choice to inhumanly poison them at a cost of $30,000 to local tax payers.
Free versus $30,000. Seems like a no-brainer, but evidently the mayor, city commissioners and local ranchers would rather pay the money to see them all killed than have them relocated for free. The reason is confusing and reportedly has to do with local politics, canceled meetings, ingrained ignorance of a highly misunderstood species, and control issues that have been labeled conspiratorial, based on lies.
Bold Visions Conservation delegate Stephen Capra, working with Citizens for Prairie Dogs, wrote in the ABQ Journal on Friday about months of planning for the relocation of dozens of prairie dogs from Clovis, only to hit a roadblock 16 hours before the relocation was to begin:
Friday would’ve marked the beginning of the rescue of the Clovis Prairie Dogs. After appealing to all of you for so long, working with experts and the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), these lucky prairie dogs that were facing poison, were finally going to be on their way to a new home in the heart of a BLM’s 120,000 acre ranch, free of cattle, and far away from the hate that defines Clovis.
The prairie dogs were to be moved to BLM land in Chaves County, but the county commissioner, James Duffy, traveled to Clovis for the meeting on Thursday, to object with numerous reasons, including the fear that prairie dogs relocated to isolated rural areas would then spread to other residential and unwanted areas. An unfounded excuse, critics claimed, which would take a century to accomplish.
“We spend thousands and thousands of dollars to eradicate [kill by any means possible],” said Duffy. “They are rodents.”
Myths still abound on the prairie dog issue, because they are actually intelligent, personable, social members of the squirrel family.
While many other areas of the country, including the city of Santa Fe, local landowners and local municipalities have begun to recognize the value of prairie dogs to the Great Plains landscape, where they co-existed for thousands of years with prong-horned elk, bison, and other species—Clovis officials and influential ranchers, who are “consumed with hate at a guttural level”, are reportedly using duplicitous tactics to spend city funds for a poison campaign, rather than allow Bold Visions Conservation to move them at their own expense.
Furthermore, Bold Visions Conservation attempted to provide a confidential alternative from a landowner, who wished to remain unanimous due to all the hyperbole surrounding the issue. But that didn’t satisfy Clovis Mayor, David Lansford, who claimed it would be “irresponsible” to allow prairie dogs to be moved to an unknown location. Critics say Translation: we want them killed and we intend to have our way, no matter what solution you come up with.
Biologists know that prairie dogs are an important keystone species and part of the food chain for dozens of other animals, birds and reptiles. They include the highly endangered black-footed ferret and hawks, while prairie dog burrows provide nesting places for endangered burrowing owls.
According to Bold Visions Conservation, “no poisoning can occur until October, as burrowing owls are with the prairie dogs, and remain a threatened species.” They have contacted WildEarth Guardians, (an environmental group well known for their work to protect prairie dogs), several attorneys, state representatives and plan to continue the fight
“Many options remain on the table,” Capra concluded. “Direct action, protest, congressional interaction, legal and continued pressure applied to the Mayor and City Council. We will stand by our principles and we will never stop battling for these prairie dogs, which deserve the chance at life and we are committed to making sure they get it!”
Bold Visions Conservation is providing Clovis official’s contact information for anyone interested in adding their voice to the effort.
For more material on keystone prairie dogs and how you can help the national effort to educate the public on their value and help save them in the wild, click here.