Prairie dogs gassed out of holes

Prairie dogs gassed out of holes

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

Prairie dogs, once an integral part of the High Plains ecosystem, are seen by many as a nuisance nowadays. So much so, that the city elects to gas them out of their holes.

Staffers say that practice is essential to keep the peace in the parks.

 "Prairie dog control is a necessary part of park management," Parks & Rec. Director Bridget Faulkenberry said. "The holes are dangerous to the people that use the park. They could step in one and break a bone. They carry disease, they chew our irrigation and electric lines. At Mackenzie, they're really bad. We have athletic fields here, so it's very important that we control them on those fields."

 An online petition asks the city to stop gassing the prairie dogs with carbon monoxide, but Faulkenberry said this method is not new and the city has had to control the population for decades.

"Our control of prairie dogs in the park land is not going to affect the populations. I mean, if you look all over town on private property, prairie dogs are alive and thriving. In Prairie Dog Town, that's the perfect place for people to go and watch them," Faulkenberry said.

Prairie dog town has been around since about the 1930's and was the first protected colony of its kind. The city doesn't touch the dogs that are currently living here, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a safe haven, according to TTU Natural Resources Management Chairman Dr. Mark Wallace.

"It is artificial high density, it's trying to keep it enclosed, and it is not very good evidence of what a prairie dog colony should look like to the public going to look at it," Wallace said.

He believes the dogs are fine in the environment as long as they aren't conflicting with public land use.

"As they breed, they make more and more holes and spread out. People have other desires for the use of that space and it doesn't work well together. So, that's the main reason that people are killing prairie dogs."

He said prairie dogs won't go extinct from the city's gassing mandate.

"This is the situation, it's the tradeoff. 'what do we have to do with this particular place at this time?' when it comes to human safety versus prairie dog safety, i think we have to go with human safety," Wallace said.

If you plan on building on private property, it's advised to hire pest control to treat the dogs before you break ground on their habitat.

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