From: Joe Kafka, Associated Press
Published March 8, 2005 12:00 AM

South Dakota Bill Targets Prairie Dogs

PIERRE, S.D. — Gov. Mike Rounds has signed a bill giving South Dakota ranchers some extra ammunition in dealing with prairie dogs that invade from neighboring private property.


The measure will conditionally reinstate prairie dogs on a state list of pests and allow for local control methods in certain circumstances. If that is done, county weed and pest boards could poison prairie dogs in one-mile buffer zones.


The rodents could only be poisoned if sylvatic plague is found in prairie dogs east of the Rocky Mountains, if state officials determine that more than 145,000 acres are infested with the animals, and if adjacent landowners have not maintained a one-mile buffer zone or other mutually agreed border area where control measures are taken.


The new law is intended to work in conjunction with a comprehensive state prairie-dog management plan that was approved by the Legislature. The plan seeks to protect the rights of landowners while balancing the prairie dog population to prevent black-tailed prairie dogs from being listed as an endangered species.


By some estimates, the black-tailed prairie dog occupied 100 million acres or more in 11 states before white pioneers arrived in the late 1800s. After years of study, Fish and Wildlife officials ultimately concluded that the prairie dog is hardier and more numerous than they previously thought, covering 1.8 million acres in 10 states.


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Last fall, after Fish and Wildlife decided not to protect prairie dogs, the state started poisoning them on private land for the benefit of ranchers. And federal officials and environmental groups eventually reached a deal allowing poisoning on some public land in a half-mile buffer zone next to private land.


Source: Associated Press


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