Conservation group worries new risk could come from prairie dog poisoning in Commerce City

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- A prairie dog conservation group says the United States Department of Agriculture is creating a health hazard in Commerce City as the organization is moving forward with a plan to kill more than 2,000 prairie dogs.

The USDA was contracted by Commerce City to use “pesticide applications” on prairie dogs. The implementation of the plan began in early October at Second Creek Open Space.

Michaela Hinerman spent the weekend cleaning up, what she said is the USDA’s mess.

“The other three are in here, and here goes this guy,” shesaid, after bagging up and throwing away a poisoned prairie dog.

She’s part of Prairie Protection Colorado a group of people who are against a wildlife mitigation plan that will exterminate prairie dog colonies across 200 acres of open space over the next few years.

“It’s a health concern for the wildlife, for the community,” said Hinerman.

When the USDA began administering the pesticides earlier this month, most of the holes were filled in afterward—but not all of them.

Some of those poisoned prairie dogs have made their way to the surface. Prairie Protection Colorado estimates 10% of them make it to the surface, after they’re poisoned.

“It typically takes between 50 and 72 hours to actually surface. So the process of the prairie dogs coming to the surface and dying has just begun,” Hinerman said.

Hinerman said the USDA should disposing of the prairie dogs quicker, before another animal can get to them.

“It’s very painful. Anything that eats those animals—the prairie dogs—will also suffer the same horrific death,” she said.

In a past statement, Commerce City officials said, “The restoration will allow wildlife and trail users to access a seamless continuity of green space from north of 104th to 56th Ave.”

A nearby resident said he was happy the prairie dogs were being exterminated, but wasn't happy to learn the USDA had started the pesticide applications behind his home without first notifying his family.

Hinerman said the label for the poison the USDA is using stipulates signage must be used.

"We’ve walked this entire area, and there are no signs,” Hinerman said.

FOX31 reached out to the USDA Wildlife Services to find out whether they’re required to dispose of prairie dogs above ground and if signage is required.

Our calls and e-mails were not returned by the time the story aired.

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