Prairie dog hearing set for Thursday

August 14, 2013 • Local News

Th[auth] is Bureau of Land Management photo, taken in July, shows a black-tailed prairie dog at O.G. Potter Memorial in Clovis. (Courtesy Photo)

A population of Clovis prairie dogs burrowing holes across two public parks and the city’s Civic Center are likely unaware of their current predicament.

The city’s recent denial of a request from Texas-based Citizens for Prairie Dogs to relocate them to Chaves County may have left the critters without asylum, said their local advocate.

“It’s kind of a desperate situation for these little guys,” said Susan Hubby, of Clovis, as she spent Tuesday evening hand feeding some with fruits and veggies.

Curry County has banned the transportation or importation of prairie dogs, and Chaves County is considering prohibiting the importation and relocation of them this week.

Chaves County Commissioners will hold a public hearing at 9 a.m. Thursday at the County Chambers on the proposal for prairie dogs, feral hogs and other rodents.

“The issue is whether or not we should have or allow the importation of prairie dogs, feral hogs and other pests that can cause harm to our agricultural community,” said Commissioner Greg Nibert. “That’s what the public is going to address with the commission. Hopefully, we’ll have people from Chaves County come forward and tell us what they would like to see in the ordinance.”

The Citizens for Prairie Dogs first asked Clovis City Commissioners to allow the group to relocate the unwanted creatures to a Bureau of Land Management property, in partnership with Wildlife Biologist Dan Baggao, in Chaves County.

The plan, which was soundly defeated, included using 3,000 gallons of city water to flush the prairie dogs out of their holes. The prairie dogs face extermination by poison in the fall.

Mayor David Lansford said out of respect for Clovis’ neighbors, commissioners did not allow the prairie dogs to be relocated.

“We’re not going to take our nuclear waste, or piles of manure, and take them to somebody’s neighborhood that doesn’t want it,” Lansford said. “We have a serious problem with overpopulation. They’re destroying farmland, parks and other areas and we’ve got to do something about it. And it doesn’t mean sending our problem to someone else.”

A bird’s-eye view of land at one of the Clovis parks shows countless prairie dog holes, possibly resembling what it might look like following an aerial bomb.

The BLM’s Chaves County property, proposed by Baggao for the prairie dogs, is a 58,00-acre Area Critical of Environmental Concern (ACEC), near Elida. The land encompasses Gabel Ranch. A Roswell Management Plan amendment targets sensitive species, including the lesser prairie chicken and dune sage brush lizard, Baggao said.

“It’s not all federally owned,” Baggao said.

Some of the property is public, some is state property and some is privately owned.

Baggao said the BLM’s mission would be to assist with relocation if it is allowed. The move would help with genetic diversity, he said, and possibly prevent the future need to possibly list the species.

“If they are not wanted in one place, rather than kill them, if we have the room, we can see if we can move them,” Baggao said. “It doesn’t cost the taxpayer money.”

Clovis is taking the issue a step further next month. City commissioners are expected to consider declaring the prairie dogs a “public nuisance.” Any property owner with prairie dogs will be expected to remove them or destroy them.

The Citizens for Prairie Dogs will relocate 75-100 Clovis prairie dogs from a private lot this weekend, Hubby said. They will be quarantined, seen by a veterinarian and eventually taken to Lorenzo, Texas, near Lubbock.

Hubby said she wouldn’t be able to make the Chaves County meeting.

“I have too many prairie dogs here to feed,” Hubby said.

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