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Boulder asking for public input to stem prairie dog invasion

City wants to save agricultural land
Posted at 10:03 PM, Feb 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-06 00:38:12-05

BOULDER, Colo. -- There's a prairie dog invasion in Boulder. The animals are digging and destroying valuable farmland, and it's gotten so bad, the city doesn't know what to do — so they're now asking the public for input.

"They overpopulate so bad and so quickly you can't keep up with it," said Bob Lover, a rancher who's been raising cattle for 37 years.

He said the exploding prairie dog population is destroying his fields and his livelihood.

"This will be the first year I haven't put up hay in 32 years because the prairie dogs have destroyed it," Lover said.

Phillip Yates, with Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, said the city charter requires land set aside for farmers and ranchers, and this year the city is seeing the most prairie dogs on agricultural land since 1996.

Yates said they can relocate 40 acres of prairie dogs per year.The problem is, there are 967 acres of land.

"Boulder has been working to preserve and protect prairie dogs for a long time. People might not realize agriculture is an important part of our system, too. Now we have to preserve those uses of the land as well," said Yates.

Lover said there is only one solution to saving his ranch.

"The solution is you're going to have to use some kind of euthanization to keep up with them because they populate so quick. That's the bottom line," he said.

The city is asking for public opinion and is willing to consider non-lethal and relocation option. Colorado native Erika Schmidt said she has a plan.

"Why don't we do catch and release and spay them like we do wild cats?" she said.

Yates said he realizes any solution, especially euthanizing the animals, could stir up controversy.

"We recognize the challenges and the concerns and the interests on both sides," said Yates.

And as Boulder considers options to stem the prairie dog invasion, Bob Lover said he's confident the dogs will survive.

"I really think they'll be here to lick on the last dead man's bones. They're survivors. We just want to control them in areas where it affects our living."

The Open Space trustees will meet on February 12 to discuss the prairie dog issue. The public is invited to participate.

You can also submit ideas through the Open Space and Mountain Parks website.