DENVER — A neighborhood was convinced Denver Water was working with them to protect a colony of prairie dogs, but the utility company decided to hire an exterminator instead.
The small rodents are living on a lot owned by Denver Water near Quebec Way and Florida Avenue. Some residents complained that the animals were digging holes and getting too close to children.
“Before some proactive measures were taken, like the fences, there were worries a few had gotten out on the decks where there were young children,” Kathi Leisch said.
Leisch has lived in the neighborhood 23 years and doesn’t support killing prairie dogs.
Kristie Tayrien says when the problem first arose she and others went to Denver Water meetings trying to save the animals. The homeowners association worked with the utility to build a fence.
“We went to the meeting asked for $300. They immediately gave us the money. We put up the wildlife fence, the makeshift wildlife fence,” Tayrien said. “It probably took us two weeks. It was entirely successful — 100 percent successful.”
Tayrien says they were working with non-profit Prairie Protection Colorado to try to move the animals to another property a few blocks away on Jewel Avenue. They say Denver Water even applied for the permits but without warning changed plans and hired an exterminator.
“I’ve been out there a couple of days after they have gassed them and they’re wobbling. They’re disoriented,” Tayrien said. “The prairie dogs carry out the poison; they carry out the dead if you walk through there you see both lying around. It’s gross horrifying.”
Denver Water contracted a company for $50,000 to exterminate the prairie dogs on both properties. This infuriated advocates because Denver Water only chipped in $300 for their fence and said it wasn’t cost effective to build a true wildlife fence.
Denver7 reached out to Denver Water, and they released the following statement:
“Denver Water did not make this decision lightly, and a considerable amount of time and effort were put into finding alternative resolutions. Unfortunately, none of the resolutions we examined with the help of wildlife experts could create sustainable, long-term solutions for our neighbors or the wildlife living on the properties.”
Despite the gassings, the prairie dogs are survivors. Prairie Protection Colorado started an online petition asking Denver Water to stop the exterminations. It has over 66,000 signatures.
Tayrien is not hopeful that the prairie dogs in her neighborhood will be saved but hopes their advocacy brings light to the extermination of prairie dogs all over the state.
“Denver water says they don’t have any options, but they do they are huge they have land we could put them somewhere,” Tayrien said. “They could have done the right thing.”