Prairie dogs put to sleep

South Dakota State Roundup

Published September 1, 2004  | September 2004 issue

The state government will temporarily provide money to farmers for exterminating prairie dogs this year.

Gov. Mike Rounds decided to make funds available for prairie dog control in early July after ranchers began complaining about infestations coming from federal lands. The U.S. Forest Service stopped prairie dog control after the animals became a candidate for threatened-species status.

The decision comes as South Dakota develops a prairie dog management program that will not be ready for another year. Along with similar efforts in 10 other states, the intent of the plan is to control the population of the species but keep it off the threatened species list. If prairie dogs made the list, it would be more difficult to control them.

There are over 400,000 acres of prairie dog towns in South Dakota. Ranchers mostly consider them pests that ruin grazing land. And with much of the state affected by drought, ranchers have even less patience with federal conservation programs.

The program will aid ranchers with property near federal land, about 10,000 acres, and will cost about $90,000, depending on how widely it is used.

Joe Mahon