Wildlife workers have begun a program to poison thousands of prairie dogs in the grasslands of South Dakota to stop them from moving onto private ranch land parched by drought, a federal official said this week.
DENVER, Colorado Wildlife workers have begun a program to poison thousands of prairie dogs in the grasslands of South Dakota to stop them from moving onto private ranch land parched by drought, a federal official said this week.
But in an agreement to settle a lawsuit filed by eight conservation organizations last month, the U.S. Forest Service will spread poison on fewer acres than originally planned and conduct an environmental study to figure out a long-term solution, according to Don Bright, forest supervisor for the Buffalo Gap National Grassland in southwestern South Dakota.
"We need to be good neighbors, and we do not want a landowner to go out of business," Bright said, referring to ranchers who said prairie dogs were eating the little grass left in the fifth year of drought.
Parts of the area have been hard hit by drought and had less than two inches of rain in the past 15 months.
The groups had sued in federal court in Denver, saying the prairie dogs should not be shot on federal land, especially because their habitat is home to the endangered black-footed ferret, whose diet consists mainly of prairie dogs.
Bright also said planned rifle hunting of prairie dogs which is basically target shooting will be banned this year in an area where there are about 200 ferrets.
Jonathan Proctor, Northern Plains program director for Predator Conservation Alliance, called the settlement a mixed bag.
"We hate that wildlife will be killed and ferret habitat destroyed on our public land, but the settlement will save more wildlife and habitat in the long run," he said.