Skip to content
Jesse Trost, with Animal and Pest Control Specialists, pulls a foam covered prairie dog from its burrow in open space in Lafayette on Oct. 20, 2008.
Jesse Trost, with Animal and Pest Control Specialists, pulls a foam covered prairie dog from its burrow in open space in Lafayette on Oct. 20, 2008.

BOULDER, Colo. –

But despite Boulder County’s vigilant efforts, prairie dogs on county open space keep popping up where they’re not wanted.

“Their annual population growth is far greater than whatever we’re going to be doing out there in any given year,” said Ron Stewart, director of the county’s Parks and Open Space Department.

Tuesday, the county’s Board of Commissioners will discuss whether to approve the latest update to its 10-year-old plan for how to manage prairie dogs on open space land.

The update does not outline significant changes to management strategies, which generally protect prairie dogs from extermination, but it does show how the furry rodents have maintained a tenacious paw-hold on “no-prairie-dog areas,” land that is farmed or where the ecology is otherwise unsuitable for prairie dogs.

The number of “no-prairie-dog” acreage that is, in fact, filled with prairie dogs has slightly more than doubled from a decade ago. And while a lack of predators and the acquisition of more farmland by the county has compounded the problem, the underlying cause seems to be that the colonies are growing and expanding faster than the county can trap them.

In 1998 the always-contentious prairie dog debate became even more inflamed after police arrested several people protesting a developer’s extermination of the animals near Lafayette’s city hall. In response, the county, which also had a policy of exterminating the animals when found on agricultural land, created a new strategy for dealing with prairie dogs in 1999.

The plan divided potential prairie dog habitat owned by the county into three categories: prairie dog habitat conservation areas, where the animals could be left to live without human intervention; multiple-objective areas, where prairie dogs could live but where they might not be the highest management priority; and no-prairie-dog areas.

At first, open space staffers worked to trap animals and move them to the habitat conservation areas. But in just a few years, those lands became full.

Since 2002, trapped prairie dogs — with nowhere to go — have been sent alive to feed the endangered black-footed ferrets bred at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s facility in Carr, Colo., or sent frozen to raptor rehabilitation centers on the front range.

But now, as more Colorado cities and counties have begun to trap prairie dogs instead of exterminate them, there aren’t enough raptors and ferrets to eat the available animals.

“We’re all making contributions to the same places,” said Mark Brennan, wildlife specialist for the county. “It’s become a little bit too popular, especially with the ferret program.”

Despite a four-fold increase in the total amount of open space land occupied by prairie dogs, the county isn’t looking at altering its management strategy. But if the animals win protection under the Endangered Species Act, a possibility under consideration by the federal government, the county could be forced to make changes.

Black-tailed prairie dogs live on as little as 2 percent of their historic lands, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which used to stretch across 11 states from Canada to Mexico. But the surviving colonies are not equally spread out, and prairie-dog- friendly Boulder County has some of the highest burrow densities of any place on the Front Range, with 270 burrows per acre in some places, according to researchers at the University of Colorado.

Historic densities were likely closer to 35 burrows per acre.

This kind of prairie dog clumping raises concerns about whether federal protection would force counties like Boulder — with lots of animals — to enforce the same protections as counties like Phillips and Sedgwick in northeastern Colorado where prairie dogs have become rare.

“The entire preservation of the species,” Brennan said, “cannot be bottled up in eastern Boulder County.”

Archived comments

I think the foam in the picture is from the rabies…..


5/5/2009 9:59:09 AM

yes! Save the Frogs and the Dogs!

5/5/2009 10:11:13 AM

If these animals win protection under the Endangered Species Act, someone needs a kick in the a** and a pink slip.


5/4/2009 11:06:29 PM

I am told by the DC that they THINK that is a decontaminant foam, the guy is not wearing gloves. The dog is alive. A/P’s fault for lack of information.


5/5/2009 10:14:52 AM

The Afterlife just called and asked if all of The Tough Guys could kindly stop killing The Coyotes.Then muttured, unbelieveable… and hung up.


5/5/2009 7:50:42 AM

I would suggest a children’s birthday party with big red mallets.


5/5/2009 7:52:20 AM

Is that PD in the picture getting a bath?


5/5/2009 8:05:25 AM

For Coyote food? No, for Golden Eagle food.


5/5/2009 8:18:08 AM

DC- who took the photo?


5/5/2009 8:18:32 AM

t.pull writes “Love the P-Dogs!”

Only if they are consenting adult p-dogs and you’ve applied for your domestic partner license.


5/5/2009 8:21:14 AM

I’m fairly certain that the only species that reproduces exponentially, without any limiting factors is that of the human species…

sox…are you out there?


5/5/2009 8:25:46 AM

paint the yellow stripes on the road with PD pheromones….problem should go away soon.


5/5/2009 8:26:39 AM

That sure is one very excited prairie rat…


5/5/2009 8:28:17 AM



5/5/2009 8:30:28 AM


you’re right. you just forgot to include destructive behavior.

5/5/2009 8:38:23 AM

mcman – classic!


5/5/2009 8:46:22 AM

HOW can you not love the dags???

they are very cute, and not hurtin’ anyone.

5/5/2009 8:50:34 AM

“I smell varmint poontang, and the only good varmint poontang is dead varmint poontang.”


5/5/2009 8:38:45 AM

Shoot them….problem solved!


5/5/2009 11:25:48 AM

Uh, can anyone say ‘coyotes’?

Problem solved.


5/5/2009 4:50:31 PM

Though the article is about what the County is doing it is evident the County and City’s politics have merged (e.g. City’s Grassland Plan). (Given all the recent p dog articles, what is the D Camera? A lobbyist for OS’s “We must to kill p dogs now.” program?).This “plan” (Does it deserve the word?) is wrong because it won’t resolve p dog problems, is expensive and unethical, for many reasons.

The scientists and OS planners have not leveled with the public about the p dog management issues they have to deal w/.Only a short while ago the City’s grand gesture was a p dog no kill zone.Score 1 for nature.

P dogs, aGreat Plains specie of an ecosystem THAT NO LONGER EXISTS on OS, are wildly unsuited for urban living.Each spring the coteries produced males that have to go somewhere, which is why we see so many p dog carcasses. P dogs are migrating.

See “Conservation of the Black-Tailed P Dog” , Hoogland, Editor, Island Press.He, et al. report that 10,000 intact acres is the minimum size area for a functioning ecosystem w/ p dogs.OS does not have even close to this amount of intact grassland for an ecosystem that includes p dogs.Hoogland, et al. report it is impossible extirpate p dogs because they migrate, a long way (1 mile or more), refilling empty burrows every few years.This will be true, OS land, because p dogs are everywhere.(Is there a map of OS p dog colonies?)

Basically, OS proposes a killing plan that will go on year after year, into the future, as long as p dogs procreate.If you are thinking, so what, nasty little rodent, maybe you wouldn’t be lackadaisical if OS suggested the yearly killings of cats, dogs, rabbits (see, any complex mammal)?Nature has given mammals the same hard-wired physiological system each of us has. We all possess the same capacity for pain, physical suffering, fear, joy, etc. (W style scientists will always be far behind the child and her pets.)OS today will be polite about what they are proposing but if you buy it you are complicit.

A p dog solution lies in the same kind of process that introduced wolves into Yellowstone.CO law allows counties to regulate p dogs by agriculture statues as nuisance animals.This must change.It will take CO urban counties $ and will; Eastern CO counties cooperation (They have land, but they hate p dogs.); SCIENCE AND EDUCATION; state and federal wild life people, and the CO legislature – to come up with p dog plan that will include managing (not just killing) urban p dogs. We should not cede to a false Malthusian forecast b/c THERE IS a stasis for the High Plains ecosystem, just not on OS lands.

Consider if our officials are being practical, truthful, and possessed w/ visionary will when they vote on this killing field plan. P dogs are a keystone specie b/c of what they do – turn the sun’s energy into energy for a lot of things.Nature is complex, near impossible to manage, but this is no excuse for not trying to get it right.JMc

5/5/2009 9:39:20 AM

This would solve the problem.


5/5/2009 9:39:27 AM

Is the PD in the pic frozen?


5/5/2009 9:43:03 AM

Dress the prairie dogs in cycling clothing and let Ragas after em’.


5/5/2009 12:04:06 PM

Why can’t we give ’em some birth control pills?


5/6/2009 7:07:32 AM

I love prarie dogs, would much rather have them than more developers, but if they are to be kept in contained areas they must be culled.

5/5/2009 6:31:17 AM

My guess is that posting a picture like that is designed to create an uproar.


5/5/2009 6:32:56 AM

I didn’t think that one would fly.Oh well.


5/5/2009 9:20:40 AM

YEAH! I was worrying about what we’d hit the 200 post mark with since bikes aren’t on the landing page today. I’ll start it off. Prairie dogs rule!


5/5/2009 7:45:49 AM

Hey–The Prairie Dogs were here first!


5/5/2009 12:51:27 PM

All that Prairie Dogs are good for is target practice.They ruin golf courses, parks and soccer fields.


5/5/2009 12:55:12 PM

Clustering like that is dangerous.Disease will rip through the population quickly and could wipe them out.

Why not just shoot the extra ones and then incinerate them?

This is a precarious path which could put the whole population at severe risk.

How is this different than the culling they are doing of Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park?


5/5/2009 1:57:13 AM

In most places they buy $80. worth or strychnine and send the youngest county worker out and drop a piece in each hole.

3 days latter and $150. in labor and $40. in strychnine the population is under control.

In Boulder we hire 6 figure scientist to discuss the problem then create expensive programs and hundreds of thousand of dollars later we still have a problem.



5/5/2009 6:29:47 AM

“Their annual population growth is far greater than whatever we’re going to be doing out there”

maybe you should be trying something else more effective, like, um, killing them.


5/5/2009 6:43:36 AM

There is probably a reason why this wouldn’t work, but couldn’t we just bring some of the black footed ferrets here, to the smorgasboard?

And I’ve been wondering what the prairie dog population here is. Are people outnumbered by prairie dogs? I’m guessing yes.


5/5/2009 6:55:09 AM

I have been doing my part in their population control for 20+ years, following these reciepes:

1- 60gr. Vmax leaving that .220 Swift 40X bbl at 3500fps for the ones farther than 400 yrds.

2- 40 gr. Sierra Blizking leaving the bbl of that ol’ Ruger #1 .22 Hornet at 2600fps for the ones closer than 400 yrds.


5/5/2009 7:36:02 AM

If Merriweather Lewis had correctly named this species “Prairie Rats” instead of the deceptive “Prairie Dogs”, this wouldn’t be such a ridiculous issue.

Take a look some colonies now, such as above Marshall Road and elsewhere – it’s a virtual desertification.Hardly a blade of grass left.These rodents need 10,000 acres for a viable population, as their nature is to keep moving like the Bison did.Moving them around into artificial colonies by “save the prairie dog” types is totally un-natural and non-sustainable; the opposite of a natural ecosystem.


5/5/2009 7:48:26 AM

Let me cut to the chase:NO management plan will work that isn’t willing to actually do something about their numbers.Shuffling p-dogs around the county and state is a losing game.


5/5/2009 7:59:55 AM

I have an idea, lets for one moment look at what we are talking about. RODENTS!! KIll KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL – RUN THEM OVER, SHOT GUN BLAST EM! SPLATTER THEIR BRAINS ALL OVER THE DIRT. THEY ARE RODENTS! Ok, back to more pressing items here at the office.


5/5/2009 8:01:34 AM

I wondering if prairie dog rights activists would feel differently if Boulder County had a rat infestation.These animals are rodents that carry disease and destroy the very open space that we, the residents of Boulder County, should able to use to walk, bike, etc. If anyone can explain to me why people want to have these rodents around, I welcome your comments.


5/5/2009 8:13:31 AM

I loved yesterday’s post comparing cyclists to prairie dogs.

you haters have some SERIOUS issues.

I’m thankfully not like you, with a pea brain and a black, hateful heart.

Ride Bikes!

Love the P-Dogs!

Go watch your 52″ hi-Def & leave us in peace.

( stir it up )

5/5/2009 8:15:53 AM

The thing that the uber-environmentalists forget is that when you remove predators from the equation it creates an unhealthy balance in nature.It always suprises me that rather than see hunters cull a herd, these groups would rather have deer die from sickness and in the road (killing others).

Maybe the prairie dogs can ride two abreast!!!


5/5/2009 8:19:16 AM

Taste like chicken…

1. Sell licenses to hunters to harvest them.

2. Have a cooking contest for PD Stew, Chili, burgers.

3. Feed the homeless.

Everybody is happy.


5/5/2009 8:19:27 AM

New idea. Confiscate all illegal pitbulls (another wasted news topic) hold them in a cell until they are really really hungry, turn them lose in a field of PD’s and watch the fun! Now thats entertainment!!! Charge admission and get some real cash in for your favorite charity!!! FUN! Get Mike Vick’s dogs out and let them really do some fun work! Come on! Ya gotta love it!!!


5/5/2009 8:23:21 AM

t.pull. Convince Booger, Panda Licker, and Viper that the prairie dogs are spandex wearing, illegal aliens, on bikes who ride on the white line and 3 abreast and the problem will be solved quickly.


5/5/2009 8:25:30 AM

Only in Boulder. You make laws where a person can get fined if their dog so much as chases a prairie dog, then you wonder why the numbers are so out of control? You wonder why half of Boulder looks like a desert?

I like seeing the little guys around too, but how about a little balance and common sense?


5/5/2009 8:29:13 AM

“But despite Boulder County’s vigilant efforts”

The only efforts made have been to keep them alive! What does the County expect to happen? An unlimited open season on prairie rats would help.


5/5/2009 8:37:18 AM

When they find a way to move the cute little critters to another area (how about another state or country) perhaps they can also find a way to get rid of another pest that seems to be over-running the area – the Californians! As for the PD’s ruining the area I don’t remember that they were involved in any way in that monstrosity called the Pelotin or the ugly buildings on Canyon Blvd. People, I think your anger is misplaced.


5/5/2009 9:33:18 AM

The useless plague and flea ridden varmits should be exterminated from all public and private land in the county. That would solve the problem and maybe send the PETA freaks elsewhere.


5/5/2009 9:44:46 AM

We are all screwed on this one. There’s just to many bloody people here from everywhere else nowadays to allow varmint shooting, a reckless speeding mountain biker would get popped. The coyotes are currently being executed by the CDOW due to a few idiots who walked their precious pooches to close to a coyote den and got nipped at.

Seems to me the only answer here, is cyanide. I just don’t think this town could sleep with itself though by resorting to poison, so everyone should learn to welcome the little plague infested critters with open arms into their back yards.


5/5/2009 10:01:40 AM

Obviously, we’ve exceeded the eco-balence, now that the black ferret and raptor predators have more than needed. That means we are the predator. And WE need to cut back on OUR overuse of the land. Let GOOD science rule over politics on the endangered species act.And save the frogs. Or we will be the endangered species.

How dare the extremists take me down with them due to mere ignorance.


5/5/2009 10:06:28 AM

I like the “kill them and feed them to the homeless” idea. Wait a moment. I don’t like the homeless. Damn. We could put them both on a bus to Denver. Maybe get rid of a few stupid bikers to.


5/5/2009 10:47:02 AM

How can a species with a half million individuals in one State (Wyoming) alone, be endangered? Wolves, eagles, grizzly bears and other species with much slower reproductive rates have been declared “recovered” with less than 2000 surviving members. This has nothing to do with science or with endangerment, it has to do with control over land use. The enviros most fervent hope is to destroy production agriculture in the West, then turn the region into their “Buffalo Commons” dream land.

Prairie dogs could be poisoned, shot, burned, frozen, smothered and run over from now until hell freezes over and in two years an undisturbed population would again be turning grassland into a moonscape. Coyotes, hawks, eagles, owls, badgers and ferrets don’t take enough individuals to even make a dent, which is why great tracts of land in what is now Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming were prairie dog towns, as barren as the moon for as far as the eye could see when Lewis and Clark passed through.

All you who are worried about whether they will survive can relax.


5/5/2009 10:52:59 AM

THE FOAM…it is likely soap…that is one way we can get the them to come up out of their burrow in order to be trapped and relocated…bubble ’em out!not rabies, or decontaminant…just soap bubbles.Now sit down and be quiet.

sox…where are you?


5/5/2009 11:22:24 AM

Chiming in with just_ice, the suds force them out of their holes, works better than flooding the holes with straight water. The guy in the pic is relocating them.


5/5/2009 11:50:54 AM

So there’s no political will to actually address the problem.

We will shuffle them from location to location around the state, with them breeding continually, some population collapses along the way due to disease in this colony or another.But we’ll “feel good” about it.

Some years down the road, with so much more of the state denuded and ruined for other use by their ever-multiplying burrows, nowhere else to play the shell game, FINALLY the problem will be squarely in everyone’s noses.

“The Trouble With Tribbles,” my friends, is a cautionary tale.


5/5/2009 11:58:02 AM

lynn_segal the foam is part of the removal process. the truck in the background pumps foamy water (see the hose in the front of the picture) into the holes, the prairie dog runs out, and is grabbed by the scruff of the neck and decontamination involved.


5/5/2009 12:17:58 PM

Now wait a minute here. Are you telling me that the save the PD plan has backfired? Has our eco- engineering created an unsustainable population that is now destroying the habitat that was going to support the population? Unbelievable! Hard to believe this turned out that way. After all, it was such good emotional science at the onset. I guess now we have a few hard choices to make. One option might involve the Capturing or otherwise killing of about 2/3 of the annual production.We could then Grind them into meal and make a breakfast sausage or a chewy corn dog product. Yummy PD sausage!! These could be served at the Boulder Creek Festival.Any surplus would be served for breakfast at the homeless Hilton. Proceeds could be used to educate the PD’S regarding birth control and the social benefits associated with PD abortion.The County may even be able to attain some Federal dollars to pay for the abortions, once the PD’S consent. Surplus funds could be used to manufacture itty bitty PD condoms for the PD’s and Boulderzown once they have been FDA approved of course. The other hard choices are not the kind of thing that I would want to mention on a public forum. At least not one on the DC. However, if the PD meal is a hit, we could then impose a law on the ranchers. They should have to donate the meat from any horse, or other livestock that is injured from a mishap with a PD borough.Although this may seem an unending morass of potentially litigious asinine solutions. Let’s face it, that is what we are best at here in unreality land.


5/5/2009 12:38:49 PM

I don’t think we’re allowed to kill them – as dogs, we aren’t their “owners” so much as their “guardians.”So….Honestly, I can’t believe Boulder is putting so much effort into “relocating” these things.What a waste – although I guess it stimulates the economy, one grimy pelt at a time.Too bad Abby T. is going back to Chicago for the summer; we could arm her with packing tape & let her help “thin” the population.


5/5/2009 1:40:40 PM

We can spend millions of tax payer’s money on prairie dogs but have to cut education and eliminate athletic fields and recreation programs to balance the budget. Good Grief!

I go for varmint elimination and save the education and athletic/recreation programs.


5/5/2009 2:15:49 PM

The CO Dept of Wildlife has told Boulder County, as well as others, that P-Dogs can’t be moved. Boulderites smile and nod as they see P-Dogs being moved, but what they don’t see is the results. P-Dogs generally drop dead in short order after a move. Many don’t survive the move or die soon after the move. It’s pointless and costly, but Boulderites like paying for pointless and costly.

Nice pic of Jesse Trost getting infected. ‘see no gloves, ma’ Animal and Pest Control Specialists is scamming Boulderites. They might as well just kill the P-Dogs and toss them in a dumpster. No Wait! take them to an eagle habitat and offer them up as a choice meal!


5/5/2009 2:36:05 PM

Relocate more Gray Wolves to Boulder! Thousands are needed.

I don’t have facts to support that it will control the Prairie Dogs … but just thinking about all those lardass PD lovers running for their lives and dragging the empty collars and leashes that used to attach to their little doggies makes me chuckle. It’s natural so it’s good!


5/5/2009 5:12:08 PM

This is funny.Prairie dog problems in Boulderia.Bwahahahaha!Heehee…

And Wild Earth has sued the Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider listing these things.That makes sense.To someone.???


5/5/2009 5:29:13 PM

Sandy: I want you to kill every gopher on the golf course!

Carl Spackler: Correct me if I’m wrong Sandy, but if I kill all the golfers, they’re gonna lock me up and throw away the key…

Sandy: Not golfers, you great fool! Gophers! The *little* *brown*, *furry* *rodents* -!

Carl Spackler: We can do that; we don’t even have to have a reason. All right, let’s do the same thing, but with gophers -!


5/5/2009 7:25:22 PM

Wow — new organic,locally grown meat for the Boulder Farmer’s Market, the county could make money off the surplus … and I hear they taste just like chicken!


5/6/2009 9:57:24 PM

Wow, the City has a 10-year plan for P-Dogs! Interesting since they can’t plan more than a couple of years for anything else – like education and sales planning

Oh, I heard that Rollie Heath is pushing to give the P-Dogs in-state tuition too!

5/10/2009 1:10:46 PM

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.