A 19-page petition by Wild Earth Guardians argues that common practices of killing prairie dogs does not meet the legal or moral definition of hunting. Area residents and officials interviewed disagree.

file photo

A 19-page petition by Wild Earth Guardians argues that common practices of killing prairie dogs does not meet the legal or moral definition of hunting. Area residents and officials interviewed disagree.

Group petitions state to ban prairie dog shootings


— A petition to ban the shooting of live animals as targets, specifically prairie dogs, goes beyond its intent, Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said.

The 19-page petition - which is a legal argument, not a list of signatures - holds that common practices of killing prairie dogs does not meet the legal or moral definition of hunting.

It was contracted by Wild Earth Guardians, a national conservation group, and submitted to the Colorado Wildlife Commission, which oversees the Division of Wildlife.

The Wildlife Commission will hear public testimony on the issue at its meeting at 10 a.m. today, at its Denver offices at 6060 Broadway.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers plans to attend the meeting and speak against the petition.

A Wild Earth Guardians representative did not return calls by press time.

"To define prairie dog shooting as hunting degrades all other types of hunting and hunters," the petition reads.

Throughout its pages, the petition argues prairie dog shooting is done primarily for target practice and amusement, and it includes pictures from Web sites devoted to prairie dog shooting that depict images of successfully hunted prairie dogs and recommends what ammunition types achieve the most disintegration.

The petition, however, does not address private property rights or how landowners should handle pest control on their land, Gray said. Although the petition states it wants to abolish animal cruelty, a comprehensive ban would prevent landowners from protecting themselves from damages.

"It's an emotional, populist plea by people who want to try and get the majority to overrule the rights of the individual," Gray said. "The ability of a landowner to decide what is a problem on their land and be able to deal with that problem is something I'd like to maintain."

As a rancher, Gray has his own experience with prairie dogs.

"They dig holes, keep spreading, eat all the vegetation down to nothing," he said. "There's problems in hay fields and problems in crop fields."

The holes can be dangerous to livestock and horses, which can break legs by falling into them, and damage equipment, such as tractors, which can bottom out, said Mathers, who also has a ranching operation within the county.

The petition maintains prairie dog towns benefit many animals, including livestock, by citing studies that show livestock do not suffer higher death rates when around prairie dogs and in some cases prefer to graze around their habitats.

As well, the petition states, prairie dogs comprise a cornerstone in local ecosystems, providing food for predators.

Because it is common practice to leave dead prairie dogs where they've landed, the petition states, the lead left in the bodies poisons animals coming to eat, from coyotes to hawks.

Dean Gent, a longtime area resident, former sheep rancher and now a licenses outfitter, said he sees the petition as one of many steps to restrict hunting nationwide. He cited the petition's language, "to ban shooting of live animals as targets."

"Everybody that hunts with a weapon shoots at a live animal," Gent said. "That to me tells the story of what they're trying to do."

Prairie dogs multiply so much they can take over any land they breed on and make it useless for farming or ranching, Gent said. Because of that, any law prohibiting a landowner from eliminating prairie dogs amounts to the government seizing that property, he added.

In essence, Gray and Gent said, the Wild Earth Guardians' petition addresses prairie dogs from an outsider's perspective and does not treat landowners fairly.

"They're destructive as all get out on anything you try to farm," Gent said. "Most operators consider them vermin and the modern wildlife lover considers them pets."

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com


WileyWapiti 9 years, 1 month ago

Ok, so these guys are part of the squirrel family, that makes them a rodent right? I do not see the pages of save a rat foundation lobbying our way of life and interfering with the sale of traps or poison - guess I am not sure how prarie dogs are any different. Growing up in Wyoming where they are a problem as well, I cannot remember ever being turned down by a farmer or rancher when I have asked to hunt these critters on their property. I have a friend who broke his neck from being thrown from a horse that sunk into a PD hole, the horse had to be put down due to the seriousness of it's compund fracture.

Tell me again why these rodents are so important? I think it is crummy that they are having a public discussion on the matter today in Denver, to me that is like having somebody throwing a birthday party for you but not inviting you to the party. Great job getting the word out Wildlife Commission. I hope this effort to stop the hunt will fail miserably. Additionally, I hope the people pushing this movement lose one of their Birkenstocks in a prarie dog hole.


Randy Hampton 9 years, 1 month ago

WileyWapiti - this is a petition to the Wildlife Commission and anyone has a right to submit a petition to the Commission. IF (it's their discretion) the Commission chooses to act on the petition, it would become a three-step process for regulation. Such a process would mean that the issue would be heard at the April worksession in Estes Park and at the May meeting in Grand Junction. So, the public will have plenty of additional opportunity to comment. And, if my feel for these things is correct, I suspect the media will do more than a fine job of keeping this issue very much in the public eye... IF it moves forward. For now, this is nothing more than a suggestion from a part of the public to the Wildlife Commission. Randy Hampton, DOW


WileyWapiti 9 years, 1 month ago

Randy - thanks for the info - that is a relief, I now have a better understanding of the proccess which was not explained in the article.




rhammel 9 years, 1 month ago

The prairie dog is being reviewed for listing as an Endangered Species. If listed, shooting them will be a federal crime.


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