Putting off prairie dogs proves unwise

The thought of killing prairie dogs is not pleasurable to most people. And it was not to Clovis officials when they ordered a rodent eradication project at Ned Houk Park.

But they had a responsibility to prevent the troublesome rodents from spilling onto private property and endangering those neighboring landowners' livelihoods.

City commissioners approved spending up to $25,000 to purchase 250 containers of the poison Rozol to reduce the park's prairie dog population.

If the city erred, perhaps it was in letting the situation become so bad. Officials could have acted sooner rather than allowing the problem to fester as it has done.

That aside, just ask any eastern New Mexico rancher what he or she thinks of prairie dogs and you might hear a profanity-laced response about the blankety-blank critters, whose burrows create hazards for cattle and horses injured when they step into them.

Too often those broken bones require ranchers to put their animals down, including horses they ride to round up their livestock. Such a misstep also endangers the rider in a painful and personal way.

And people who ride their horses for enjoyment at Ned Houk Park face the same potentially tragic outcome for their animals.

Prairie dogs may be cute to some people, but they are unwelcome on the range. In addition to the burrows that pock-mark pastures and create hazards to livestock, the rodents eat grass too, exacerbating wind erosion, a constant problem in our arid part of the world.

Given that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn't list the prairie dog as an endangered animal — with an estimated 24 million of the critters sharing the planet with the rest of us — it made sense for the city to eliminate as many of them as possible from one of our city's popular rural parks, and thus create better and safer recreational and working environments for park visitors.

While some applaud animal-rights activists' efforts to relocate the rodents to locations where they can do no harm, there are many who question that purported outcome as feasible. We are among them.

If any relocation efforts are allowed, the city still is responsible to ensure they are completed with the blessing of landowners and their neighbors.

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