The prairie dog is arguably the most hated animal especially in the West. “During the 20th century, about 98 percent of all prairie dogs were exterminated, and their range has shrunk to perhaps five percent of its historic spread.”
So why are these cute little critters so persecuted? Ranchers claim prairie dogs destroy land and their burrows injure livestock. But these animals aren’t all bad. In fact, they are intelligent mammals who can recognize the difference between a dog and a coyote and alert their families to those differences. They know a human from a hawk and use different signals to call out the danger of one or the other. They live in family groups called towns. Their burrowing aerates the soil and their droppings enrich soil quality.
Yet, they are still hated, hated to the point their burrows are often closed up by trappers and then flooded with water or poisonous gas. They become the target of shooters who take part in a blood sport known as “red mist.” Shot at by high-powered rifles, prairie dogs explode in a mist of blood.
Ranchers, farmers, and wildlife sometimes clash. When that happens, wildlife suffer immeasurably. But if all can learn to get along, then when you think about it…prairie dogs have rights, too. And those rights need to be honored.