Animal Writes
© sm
30 May 2001 Issue
Colorado Horse Rescue Poisons Hundreds of Prairie Dogs 

On May 8, Colorado Horse Rescue (CHR), a nonprofit group that rehabilitates neglected and abandoned horses and promotes their adoptions, stunned local community members, animal protectionists, and Boulder County officials by poisoning hundreds of prairie dogs living on CHR's
50-acre site. A complaint from a whistleblower prompted county zoning inspector Ed Meacham to visit its facility, where he immediately ordered contractors to stop the poisoning. Volunteers from Rocky Mountain Animal Defense, PETA, and Wild Places then spent hours digging out the poisoned burrows, trying to save some of the animals, while CHR staff and volunteers stood by joking. No prairie dogs, including this spring's babies, survived the assault.

The massacre was hideously cruel. Graham Billingsley, director of the county's Land Use Department said contractors hired by CHR stuffed the prairie dog holes with newspaper soaked with poison. The exterminators then packed the holes with rocks and dirt, trapping the animals underground. The poison, aluminum phosphide, causes the animals to bleed internally and die in excruciating pain over the course of several days.

CHR received approval from Boulder County to move their operation to the site on the condition that the land would be revegetated to prevent dust and soil erosion, conditions worsened by horse grazing. Officials from the Colorado Division of Wildlife said they believed that the prairie dogs would be protected on the property‹as part of an officially supported revegetation project, the state spent more than $2,300 reseeding 35 acres with native grasses and trees last summer. The project was meant to create wildlife habitat for deer, rabbits, foxes, and prairie dogs. Astonishingly, many of the animals who were poisoned had been previously relocated on the property in order to make room for CHR's new buildings.

Prairie-dog populations in the U.S. have plummeted to 1 to 2 percent of their original numbers as a result of rampant poisoning and bulldozing, unrestricted development, and hunting. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared prairie dogs "warranted" for listing under the Endangered Species Act but "precluded" from listing because of other priorities (and politics).

CHR officials claim that they cannot revegetate the property without killing prairie dogs, however, Colorado Division of Wildlife officials are confident that revegetation can occur without harming the animals. CHR representatives also claim that horses can break their legs in prairie-dog holes.
However, no such case has ever been documented among grazing horses (i.e., horses who are not being ridden or driven).

For more information, please contact Rocky Mountain Animal Defense at 303-449-4422 or via e-mail at [email protected] 

From: [email protected] (Trevor Chin)

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