RTD struggles to find homes for hundreds of prairie dogs living on future Fastrack sites

Over 500 may be euthanized

AURORA, Colo. - RTD may have to euthanize hundreds of prairie dogs that live along the future course of the I-225 FasTracks project.

A RTD spokesperson told 7NEWS it estimated 720 black-tailed prairie dogs live in open fields that will be turned into train stops with parking lots. The spokesperson for the I-225 corridor Tina Jaquez said they contacted more than 30 locations, but everyone refused to take the animals.

"It is difficult," Jaquez said. "We contract with environmental groups to mitigate some of the issues we have along the corridor. They contact numerous people to see if they'll receive prairie dogs, they just don't get a lot of people receiving them."

According to a state statue, the prairie dogs cannot be moved from county to county, without commissioners' approval.

So far, RTD has only found a home for the prairie dogs at the future Iliff stop.

The former Lowry Bomb Range, owned by the state land board, agreed to take 150 of the animals. RTD is still waiting on permit approval from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Jaquez said some ranchers have argued with that relocation but said the area the prairie dogs will be released is not adjacent to private property. Her colleague Kevin Flynn told 7NEWS that area is specifically designed for grassland preservation.

Construction along the corridor is scheduled to begin this summer, so the other 500 or more prairie dogs will likely be euthanized. In that case, RTD will donate the bodies to raptor preservation.

"We work hard to do the right and humane thing," Jaquez said, but they "have to move forward."

The I-225 corridor of the FasTracks project is scheduled to open in 2016.

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