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Prairie Dogs Face Execution To Make Room for Park

May 17, 1985

GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) _ Ray Printz is a reluctant executioner with orders to get rid of a colony of prairie dogs making their home on land scheduled to become a park.

″The state says kill them but I don’t want to,″ he said Thursday.

Officials in Jefferson County, southwest of Denver, want the prairie dogs gone by July from a 220-acre site selected for an athletic complex and amphitheater to be called Clement Park.

Printz, administrator of the county’s Open Space program, says he’s trying to move as many of the burrowing rodents as he can to a new habitat elsewhere, and permit a small number to stay.

″We’re working with the fish and wildlife people on how to control that colony to a given size,″ he said. ″We want people to be able to actually observe a real prairie dog colony.″

He admits that only 30 or 40 of the rodents have been captured in a year of trying. They just haven’t shown much appetite for the peanut butter, rolled oats, lettuce, apples, and other morsels used to bait the traps, Printz says.

State officials put the prairie dogs under a death sentence because they feared that once bulldozers begin clearing the land the uprooted animals would start tearing up the yards of neighbors.

Meanwhile, Susan Werner, southwest Denver district manager for the state Division of Wildlife, said that when the time comes, the prairie dogs will be poisoned.

Cartridges of poisonous gas will be fired into their burrows. The gas will kill them while the cartridge blocks their escape, she said.

Printz said a friend suggested the extermination wouldn’t be so difficult if the rodents were called prairie rats instead of prairie dogs.

″A lot of people consider them to be just rodents,″ he said. ″But I still think there’s value there.″

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