A grassroots group is hoping to convince Adams County officials to approve a request to relocate the last surviving prairie dog from an exterminated colony in Parker.
Longtime Parker resident Nancy Steel created a petition on Change.org asking the Adams County Board of County Commissioners to approve a permit that would allow the move to take place. Steel's group says Colorado Parks & Wildlife cannot officially approve the relocation until obtaining permission from the Adams County commissioners. The group has not heard from the board since trying to make contact a month ago, and Steel says time is of the essence.
“This lone survivor prairie dog has been forced to weather the Colorado cold and snow all by himself — for months — with no family of warm prairie dogs with whom to share his burrow,” the petition says.
Steel, with support from the Humane Society of the United States, is asking sympathizers to sign the petition and send an email to the three commissioners requesting their support (the petition can be viewed by going to www.change.org/petitions and typing “prairie dog” into the search field).
An Adams County resident has agreed to take the prairie dog onto his property, where other colonies already exist. Companies that perform relocations have techniques to carefully introduce outsiders into a new colony.
It appears a lack of communication and incorrect protocol could be holding up the process. An Adams County spokesman said the commissioners cannot act until a request is submitted by the landowner willing to accept the prairie dog.
“While it is true that Adams County commissioners have been contacted by well-intentioned animal welfare advocates from across the country seeking to relocate an orphaned prairie dog from Douglas County to private property in Adams County, we have not received an official request from the actual property owner,” said Rich Neumann, communications manager for Adams County, in an emailed statement.
The black-tailed prairie dog village on the northeast corner of Mainstreet and Twenty Mile Road was exterminated in mid-September. Some residents questioned the action because there are no active plans to develop the property. The land is divided into numerous parcels, each owned by a private entity. The Town of Parker has no input on prairie dog control measures on private property.
EnviroPest, a Denver-area business that specializes in “wildlife removal services,” including prairie dog control, says the rodents can cause significant damage to landscaping and spread fleas that carry bubonic plague to house pets and humans. Their burrows are also “unsightly and can be dangerous, especially for horses in their pastures,” the company's website says. It's unclear which company was hired for the job. Witnesses say they saw a group of men spraying a chemical into the holes and filling them.
Parker residents and employees of nearby businesses have taken up the prairie dog's cause. Steel, who has lived in Parker for 34 years, is among a handful of people who check on the lone survivor several times per week. Unsure whether it's male or female, she has given it the name “Charlie.”
Jacquelyn Pyun, state director for the Humane Society, said the petition is “rocking and rolling.” More than 550 people signed in the first two days, and organizers vow that the campaign won't relent until the grassroots organization gets the relocation approved.
It's something that simply requires signing a piece of paper, said Steel, who has been active in protecting animal rights for years, but is launching her first petition.
Neumann said until a formal request for the move is made by the Adams County property owner, “this remains a Douglas County issue.”