Prairie dog, image from Wikipedia.org
One of the issues that regularly takes up the city’s time politically is talking about what to do with the prairie dogs in town. We have our animal rights activists who want them left alone, to go where they want. If they encroach on the parks, which have been set aside for people and their pets by the city, then so be it. People should move out of the way, they say. Of course they don’t consider that city taxpayers have paid a lot of money for these parks. It would be asking a lot to tell the citizens to just give them up. But then, the activists are only thinking of the animals. They’re not thinking in practical terms.
The City Council regularly sets up gab sessions to hear public testimony about the prairie dogs, and gives hours of its time to the subject. At times it seems as though the Council is acting like a park service rather than a city council.
I spotted an article in the Daily Camera about how some prairie dogs are facing impending doom in order to remove them from park property. The city will also be burying barriers around the parks so that when the little critters dig underground to expand their towns they’ll run into a barrier and hopefully will go dig somewhere else. They’ll be putting up fencing as well to prevent them from settling in from the surface. Fine with me.
I don’t mind having prairie dogs around. They are cute. They’re a part of the natural landscape. According to what I hear, however, we’ve got plenty of them. Killing a few won’t be such a bad thing. When I think of the stories I’ve read about how the prairie dog population is expanding unchecked, I can’t help but think of the humorous “Trouble With Tribbles” episode from the original Star Trek series. They’re cute. They’re “cuddly.” But…they’re starting to get in the way! Darn! What are we going to do??
A discussion took place on the Daily Camera site about the article. Arguments went on just a day or so ago between some of the animal rights activists and some of the other citizens in town. It was rather entertaining. A few posts brought a big grin to my face. There were some good punch lines, bursting a few bubbles. Some of the funny stuff though was the very serious, sincere posts put up by animal rights activists. It’s just amusing to see them rant on and on, and to read some of their crackpot philosophies. Basically they’re on one big anti-human guilt trip. All I’ll say in counterpoint to their cries of “Don’t kill the prairie dogs, you White imperialist murderers!” is “What’s the difference?” Yeah, I guess if we were a predominantly non-white community they couldn’t say that…We’d just be “murderers”. but I digress.
What’s the difference if we humans cull some of the population to get their numbers under control, or if predators were to come along and kill them for food? It’s the same result as far as the prairie dogs are concerned. Do you think it’s any less scary or painful for them to be hunted by a bird of prey and to then be impaled by their strong, sharp talons, or for their backs to be crushed when the bird lands on them with their larger weight or by the overwhelming force of the landing? They have other natural predators who do other things to kill and eat them, like crush them, break their necks, etc. Let’s get some perspective here. Nature not only gives life, it kills too. The reason we have to do this at all is that civilization has allowed prairie dogs to stay in town, and they’ve managed to coexist with us reasonably well, but many of the predators have stayed away, or have been removed, due to them being a danger to us humans as well. This has allowed the prairie dog population to explode. It’s in a state of imbalance. Us humans killing some off will help bring things back into balance. If there was a way to bring back prairie dog predators who would do the job for us, without interfering with our lives, I’d be for it. So far this has not been possible.
I had the thought that one method would be to let dog owners let their dogs “go to town” on the prairie dogs. Let them have some real meat for once. Hey, it would be natural predation–nature taking its course. But then I had second thoughts. The prairie dogs are wild and could be carrying disease that would make the dogs sick. I wouldn’t want that. If anyone has any other ideas, let me know. Not that it would do any good in changing current policy, but the discussion would be interesting.
In times past, when the city, or perhaps the county, has culled the prairie dog population, it’s tried various methods. I remember one time years ago they invited shooters to come out and essentially use the prairie dogs as target practice. They could only kill so many. The idea was not for it to be a slaughter, of course, but to bring the population down some.
Other times they’ve brought in large suction machines to “vacuum” the prairie dogs out of their holes, to be relocated. This kills quite a few of them, but some survive the experience.
The method they’ll be using this time, it sounds like, is poisoning some of them.
Some activists complained in the comments (of the DC article) that “human compassion seems to be dying off” or something. Nothing of the sort is happening. The city manager was quoted in the article as saying that the idea of killing some of the prairie dogs “makes me sick,” but he recognized it was necessary. That’s not a loss of compassion. If anything he’s demonstrating that he has the capacity for compassion, since he feels bad about doing it. But just because you feel bad about something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it anyway. Sometimes it’s for the good to do it.