Despite pushback, Commerce City and USDA kill scores of prairie dogs

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The United States Department of Agriculture, contracted by Commerce City, is carrying out a plan to kill what activists say are hundreds of prairie dogs. The city says it’s all part of a plan to rehabilitate 200 acres of open space near East 104th Avenue and Chambers Road on the city’s north side.

The killing of prairie dogs in Commerce City started on Oct. 7. The work just recently became more noticeable, prompting concerned residents to contact FOX31. Subdivisions of homes surround the prairie dog habitat known as Second Creek Open Space.

“Once we put the wire mesh up, it hasn’t been a problem whatsoever,” said David, a neighbor, who says prairie dogs are not an issue on lawns.

Commerce City says the overall project is aimed at restoring grassland, mitigating weed growth and controlling the prairie dog population. The city also says the rodents have been destructive to the open space and nearby properties.

“Prairie dogs have come in and are destroying the grass and the trees and this park,” a concerned resident told FOX31 on Sept. 17 when City Council members were considering relocating the animals.

The USDA is tied up in a lawsuit with activists over the project. However, the suit is currently not preventing the USDA from carrying out the project.

On Wednesday, FOX31 cameras caught workers deploying gas into prairie dog burrows.

Those who hate seeing the rodents killed say they would rather the city relocate the animals. Commerce City claims the cost to relocate up to 2,400 prairie dogs could cost up to $900,000.

Commerce City released the following statement Wednesday:

“It is not the city’s intent to eliminate all prairie dogs from the city. The city’s overall goal of the wildlife management plan is to encourage healthy and balanced ecosystems, which includes both the conservation and management of wildlife populations.”

There are different phases of the project. The total restoration of the land will take several years to complete, according to the city’s website.

Activists vow to continue their fight in the courts and are hoping for a quick resolution that will save as many prairie dogs as possible.

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