Utah Pest Protected
Inside the Outdoors, July 6
, 2012

Recently while doing what I enjoy best, painting walls (fishing comes in second, if you can believe that), I heard a Fox news report about the unwanted prairie dogs that are on the endangered species list out in Utah.

According to Carl Roe, executor director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, “Whenever wildlife managers designate animals as endangered or threatened species, it means their numbers are low, their habitat is at risk and they need specialized management or care to protect and hopefully increase their populations. Species declines are usually the result of changes brought about by people, or changes in environmental condition or ecosystems. Some are naturally occurring, some are not. But all present the same unfortunate consequence: a species in trouble.”

Now, most of us are familiar with them and know what these rodents look like. They are kind of like a ground hog in a sense that they burrow holes all over the place and become nuisances just for this very reason.

But unlike the groundhog of which we are all familiar, the people from Utah can not haul out their guns and pop off these critters as many people do in our home state.

In 1973, the Utah prairie dog was labeled “endangered” under federal law. In 1984 the species had thrived to be upgraded to the “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act.

Reported by Dan Gallo, in his report of June 26, he questioned Parowan native Bob Tallbot about the matter. This was his response. “It’s a plague as far as I’m concerned.” He was overlooking a farmland “that’s comes alive with prairie dogs popping out of holes. They are just ruining the fields, building lots, everything else around,” he said.

Others went on to talk about the people of his community.

“In town, realtors say the prairie dog hurt their business during the housing boom. People from out of state think they are cute,” said Cindy Smith of CS Real Estate Group. “But once you tell them they have to get them cleared, it’s a whole different story.”

So, is this a troubled animal as Roe pointed out earlier or an animal causing a dilemma in the state of Utah?

According to a local minister there, he gave reference to scripture by stating “God’s given us dominion over the animals. Right now the animals have dominion over us!”

At the nearby airport, the runway was so dug up it no longer meets Federal Aviation Administration standards. Even though fencing did not work in other parts of the town, the airport officials built massive fences some six feet below the ground and it seems to be working.

There are plans in the making whereby the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will allow the airport to step in and trap relocate these “pests” sometime this summer. The ones that they can’t be caught will be exterminated.

Lindsey Sterling Krank opposes this plan. She states, “I understand the frustration of the locals, but believes the rodents serve a purpose. “If you were to remove prairie dogs from the prairie ecosystem, the prairie ecosystem would fall apart,” she said.

These little animals are creating a big stir. The federal government is looking into the problem as are other television stations as well. What will happen to their status and existence remains to be seen the future.

If these animals are taken off the endangered species list because of their vast population growth, there is question just how long it will take for residents to rid them of their lands.

And closer to home, what about our ground hogs? In some fields in Indiana County, I counted as many as 23 critters in one person’s lawn, alone. The residents don’t seem to be gunning them off their property as other people I know do.

Can you imagine the ground hog being on the “endangered species list?” That will be the day!

- Paul J. Volkmann
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