Texas county denies prairie dog move

File photo Clovis has drawn national attention for its actions on prairie dogs this year, beginning when it poisoned the animals at Ned Houk Park at the request of nearby farmers.

File photo
Clovis has drawn national attention for its actions on prairie dogs this year, beginning when it poisoned the animals at Ned Houk Park at the request of nearby farmers.

By Kevin Wilson
CNJ staff writer
kwilson@cnjonline.com

The dogs are denied again.

Officials in Mitchell County, Texas, have informed Clovis city officials that they don’t approve of a citizens group effort to move 200 to 300 prairie dogs from Clovis city property to a private property in Mitchell County.

City Manager Joe Thomas received a letter from Mitchell County Judge Ray Mayo to that effect, and Thomas has since shared it with city commissioners.

“The Mitchell County Commissioners Court on Oct. 11, 2013 went on record not to approve the relocation of prairie dogs to Mitchell County,” Mayo wrote. “After conferring with County Attorney Ty Wood, the court was unanimous in its decision and stated that the reintroduction of prairie dogs to the county could potentially be destructive to farm and ranch land. I have personally visited with adjoining neighbors to the proposed relocation site, and they are adamant in their opposition.”

The Clovis City Commission gave approval on Oct. 3 to Citizens for Prairie Dogs to move the animals from Potter Park, the Clovis Civic Center and Goodwin Lake Park before Feb. 1. But the motion was granted with numerous conditions, including written approval from Mitchell County government.

“I haven’t talked to any of the commissioners since I sent it out to them, but I assume it (kills the motion),” Thomas said. “One of the stipulations was that group had to get it in writing that the county had no objection. The way I read the letter, it’s definitely an objection.”

A county commissioners court serves as the governing body for each of Texas’ 254 counties, just like a county commission in New Mexico. It includes the county judge and four commissioners, each of whom have equal votes, and the county clerk serving as an ex-officio member.

When asked if the negative response from Mitchell County was a likely or probable outcome, Thomas said that wasn’t something that would be his call.

The city has drawn national attention for its actions on prairie dogs this year, beginning when it poisoned the animals at Ned Houk Park at the request of nearby farmers. In September, the animal was added to the city’s definition of public nuisance, requiring property owners to destroy the animals on their property if complaints were filed.

This is the second time the group has sought to move prairie dogs from Clovis to another county in New Mexico or Texas. The commission considered a request from Citizens for Prairie Dogs to move the animals to Chaves County, but voted down the request after Chaves County officials who showed up to the meeting voiced objection.

Thomas said he couldn’t speak for the commission, but his sense was that it would be willing to continue to work with citizens to find non-lethal ways to remove the animals from the city.

“I would assume,” Thomas said, “and I hadn’t really thought about it that much, there will need to be some alternative request.”

The commission is scheduled to meet again 5:15 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Clovis-Carver Public Library.