08 October 2004

Poisoned Prarie Dogs...

Bald Eagles, Hawks, Wolves, Coyotes and many other critters eat Prarie Dogs...


Feds Poison Prairie Dogs to Save Ferrets

By COLLEEN SLEVIN, Associated Press Writer

DENVER - The federal government will begin poisoning prairie dogs in
southwestern South Dakota next week after reaching a deal with
conservationists designed to protect the endangered black-footed

The U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to distribute poison on
only 5,000 acres instead of about 8,000 acres in the Buffalo Gap
National Grasslands, including the Conata Basin, where more than half
of the nation's 400 wild ferrets live.

Following complaints from neighboring ranchers that prairie dogs are
spreading onto their property, federal officials plan to lay out
poisoned oats on Monday.

Eight conservation groups sued, fearing some ferrets, which depend on
prairie dogs for 90 percent of their diet, would also die. Both sides
began negotiating a settlement last week at the urging of a judge.

The land excluded under the deal includes prairie dog towns where
ferrets have been spotted. It reduces from one mile to a half-mile
the buffer zone where the poisoning will take place in some areas.

In the future, the federal government also agreed to consider non-
lethal methods of controlling prairie dogs and to study the impact of
poisoning before moving ahead with another round.

Conservation groups were still upset that prairie dogs will be
killed, but they said the settlement points the way toward a more
permanent solution to the tension between ranching and wildlife.

"We hope to replicate those (solutions) in the future once we can
show here how they work," said Jonathan Proctor of the Predator
Conservation Alliance, one of the plaintiffs.

The conservation groups had sought to stop next week's poisoning
until the impact on ferrets could be sorted out. But, because prairie
dogs on the neighboring private land had already been poisoned, the
government said it need to act quickly to prevent the animals from
spreading onto the ranches before snow started to fall.

Critics worried that ferrets could die if they eat the bait or if
they eat prairie dogs who have been poisoned.

Under the deal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide
whether to move any ferrets discovered in areas slated for poisoning.
If the agency decides to keep them there, no poison can be left in
the area.


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