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Protecting Wildlife to Protect Earth

During the Summer of 2019, 183 prairie dogs relocated from a plot of land in Parker, Colorado (a southern suburb of Denver) slated for extermination to make room for an affordable housing complex. The state of Colorado does not offer protections for wildlife in regard to development, unless deemed “at-risk” for, and/or already listed as, an “endangered” species.

I was living in a condo overlooking this specific plot of land and spent time observing this colony as well as grew to admire the sense of community they shared with one another. These animals displayed a unique and intricate form of language, built burrow systems making up family coteries as well as developed a strong social system of neighbors and family units interacting much like humans.

One morning, in February 2019, I noticed signs of development taking place on that plot of land after years of discussion between developers and the town of Parker, Colorado, which began my crusade to save the colony from extermination (the usual and expected outcome for most wildlife living on any land slated for development in the state of Colorado).

I faced an uphill battle with the town of Parker, CO, (harassment by neighbors as well as town and state officials) but through partnership with multiple conservation groups (Prairie Protection Colorado and the Prairie Dog Coalition of the Humane Society of the United States, HSUS), I received valuable guidance to begin raising the necessary funds, finding the appropriate land for relocation as well as amassing a team of volunteers to assist in the heavy lifting.

I rallied the local news providers to begin spreading the word about his campaign to save the colony:

This exposure caught the attention of town leaders as well as the First Gentleman of Colorado, Marlon Reis. Mr. Reis is a well-known wildlife advocate and supporter of protecting Colorado’s wildlife from development. I also took my efforts to the Parker Town Council and spoke during monthly town council meetings to rally support for the efforts to save all prairie dogs in Parker from extermination, leading to the partnership with two town council members.

Over the course of the next few months, I raised over $17K through private donations as well as donations from the developer and Mr. Reis. The Prairie Dog Coalition (HSUS) agreed to support this effort with providing the traps for the relocation as well as the equipment to dig new burrows and several team members to guide and assist in the relocation.

Land was provided for the relocation, after an intensive search and application process, by the management of Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. This specific location periodically provides relocation land for colonies in danger, typically accepting 3–4 applications per year.

After months of hard work, determination and political maneuvering, we successfully saved 183 prairie dogs from extermination by moving them to protected federal land where they live and thrive today. 48 new burrow-trenches were built, 300 traps were laid, weeks of observation, catching, releasing and intense labor became the daily routine for the effort.

The successful relocation also became the catalyst for the ordinance that was eventually passed to require all new developers’ applications within the town of Parker, CO to faithfully attempt to relocate wildlife from land slated for development. The ordinance also bans all phosphine gas fumigants (Fumitoxin) from being used within town limits:

I spent months battling with officials in the state of Colorado, Douglas County Open Spaces management as well as the leadership of the town of Parker to care about wildlife more than they care about development dollars and/or political retribution for doing what was right. These efforts often fail in Colorado and prairie dogs continue to be exterminated, daily, within the state to make room for its constant growth.

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