Group to fence out Boulder prairie dogs: Activists to press council for non-lethal solutions

By Amanda C. Sutterer

Broomfield Enterprise

Although fewer prairie dogs will enter Broomfield from Boulder after this weekend, the number of poisonings needs to decrease, animal advocates say.

With the help of the cities and counties of Broomfield and Boulder, a dozen volunteers will attach chicken wire to an existing fence between Lac Amora Park and Boulder County open space from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

The chicken wire will help lessen the number of prairie dogs that migrate across the border, Director of Open Space Kristan Pritz said.

For the past three years Broomfield has exterminated prairie dogs that cross the border from open space owned by Boulder County if they pose a threat to humans, Pritz said.

“If their burrows are close to people, they can be exterminated. …There are a couple areas where prairie dog burrows are adjacent to the trails and created a safety hazard,” she said. “It was a decision that is a reflection of what came up during our public review process, which was very extensive.”

Boulder County put up a fence to keep the animals from crossing, but it hasn’t eliminated all migration.

But animal preservation activists and longtime Broomfield residents Judy Enderle and Wendy Keefover Ring said the city should seek non-lethal solutions. Enderle is the president of Prairie Preservation Alliance.

Broomfield’s prairie dog management plan allows for emergency poisonings of the animals, but it lacks a clear and concise definition of what “emergency” means, Enderle said.

Because of that, Enderle said she plans to ask City Council to choose an alternative to prairie dog poisonings.

The city’s prairie dog management plan, adopted in 2003, calls for extermination as a last resort if animals cannot be relocated. Relocation hasn’t been possible since 2005 because the city has used the last of its identified land for prairie dog relocation.

“We’re going to propose that we determine where prairie dogs are appropriate and inappropriate and to look for non-lethal solutions,” Enderle said.

“Right now, staff chooses the lethal solution without going through any of the other steps that the management policy calls for. They are calling every situation an emergency situation. We need a better definition of ’emergency…'”

An emergency should be something that truly endangers the safety or health of residents, Enderle said.

“If a prairie dog digs a burrow on a soccer field, that is a real danger … that would be an emergency,” she said. “But a prairie dog doesn’t dig a burrow in a day — it takes weeks — so if you’re actively monitoring the sites prairie dogs are apt to inhabit, it is rare there would be an emergency.”

The definition of “emergency” includes allowing the killing of prairie dogs who appear “sick, injured, or are vagrants where their presence is inappropriate,” according to the prairie dog management plan.

Inappropriate areas include parks, playgrounds, parking lots, roads, landscaping of public buildings or other facilities, and open space lands designated as unsuitable for prairie dogs, according to the plan.

Enderle and Ring asked for a moratorium on poisoning prairie dogs in October, shortly after several prairie dogs were killed at the Lac Amora open space in western Broomfield.

On Jan. 26 the Broomfield Open Space and Trails Advisory Committee decided not to put a moratorium on poisoning prairie dogs, but discussed changes to administrative procedures within the management plan.

The changes included educating residents about prairie dogs, documenting prairie dog complaints, posting signs when burrows are poisoned and planting landscape barriers to prevent the animals from moving into certain areas.

The work on the barrier this weekend is a step in the right direction, Enderle said. Enderle will be one of the volunteers Saturday.

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