Longmont Area Horse Organization Plans to Exterminate Prairie Dog Colony

The battle over the habitat has persisted for 16 years, and a Thursday public hearing could decide the outcome.

Boulder County based Colorado Horse Rescue has announced its intention to exterminate the prairie dog colony which resides on part of its land. The fight over the colony has persisted for nearly 16 years, and the last official extermination on CHR land nearly led to the organization's disbanding due to lack of funding and objection to the habitat destruction by volunteers and contributors.

The announcement occurs just weeks after protests over prairie dog extermination in Castle Rock gained statewide publicity.

In exchange for being able to locate its facility in a place where it did not meet zoning regulations, Colorado Horse Rescue promised to preserve the prairie dogs and the prairie dog habitat. Within two years Colorado Horse Rescue had violated that agreement with an attempt to kill off all prairie dogs in 2001. Boulder County enforced the agreement and stopped the killing. Again, in 2011 Colorado Horse Rescue was caught violating the agreement and attempting to kill the prairie dogs. Even though it issued a legal order to stop killing the prairie dogs, Colorado Horse Rescue continued and killed them all, even on land set aside as a permanent wildlife sanctuary and on county-owned land. Now they are asking to be relieved of their obligation to preserve the prairie dogs and prairie dog habitat.

Kay Clements, Attorney, animal-advocate

Colorado Horse Rescue claims the extermination is intended to facilitate grass growth, but neighbor and long-term animal advocate Kay Clements notes that CHR has been unable to grow grass in the 16 years it's owned the property - even when the prairie dogs were first destroyed.

With poor land, the absence of proper pasture management and irrigation rights, she says prairie dogs are the least of their problems.

"When Colorado Horse Rescue came to the site, they told the County that horses and prairie dogs could live together harmoniously and safely," says Clements. "They proved that to be true, and that should have been CHR's legacy to the environment. It's unfortunate that they didn't choose that to be their legacy."

According to the Humane Society of the United States, Black Tailed Prairie Dog populations and habitat range have dropped by an estimated 99 percent since the species was first discovered. They're a primary food source for a number of predators in the endangered Prairie habitat of the United States.

"The prairie dog is a keystone species, and that site supported a vibrant ecosystem including a family of bald eagles who had roosted in the land's cottonwood tree for many decades," says Clements. "Among the countless other species supported by the prairie dogs were ferruginous hawks, golden eagles, falcons, red tail hawks, rabbits and foxes."

A hearing about the issue is scheduled for April 2, 2015 at 2pm in the Boulder County Courthouse. Wildlife supporters and anyone interested in the history of the conflict are encouraged to join the Boulder County Prairie Dogs Facebook group and to attend the hearing on Thursday, and subsequent protests if the extermination takes place. Those unable to attend the hearing are encouraged to email protest letters to commissioners@bouldercounty.org.

Kay Clements can be contacted through the group.