Prairie dogs threatened by construction of huge Castle Rock shopping complex

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CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- A new construction project is threatening thousands of prairie dogs in Castle Rock.

The community will soon be home to one of the country's biggest shopping complexes.

But to build it, developers will have to dig up one of Colorado's biggest prairie dog colonies.

The issue has stirred controversy and debate in Castle Rock.

Prairie dogs often get a bad wrap. They carry disease, dig up the land and colonies can grow into the thousands.

Others find them fascinating. Deanna Meyer is one of them. "I started studying more about them and finding out that they have one of the most complex languages ever.  I`ve always loved them when I was a kid and they`re just adorable."

"I saw an article that said castle rock approved the nation`s biggest mall and I said 'oh my gosh that`s where those prairie dogs are.'"

Parts of the Promenade at Castle Rock are set too open later this year. Ultimately, it will be a one million square foot complex.

It will be a major boost to the economy in Castle Rock, but it could cost the lives of more than 1,000 prairie dogs.

"This is one of the last large colonies left on the whole front range and I just want to make sure that they`re relocated to a place where they can survive," Meyer said.

That's easier said than done.

The prairie dogs have to stay on the Front Range where most of the property is either already developed or owned by private landowners.

One person with a lot of land can take them all, or they can be split up between a few smaller private properties.

There are incentives ... the federal government pays yearly for property owners to house prairie dogs on their land.

But action must happen fast. Developers have already broken ground on the shopping complex.

Meyer hopes they'll put the project on hold until they find a solution for the prairie dogs.

"When somebody wants to come in and develop an area and there`s thousands of different animals that live there ... it should be their responsibility to at least help to trans-locate them or put them somewhere where they`d be able to survive," she said.