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Construction Industry Adopts Humane Prairie Dog Removal Services says Construction Reporter

Industry: Commerical Building

Voluntarily and because of local and regional ordinances a growing number of construction firms are adopting humane prairie dog removal practices before construction.

Santa Fe, New Mexico (PRUnderground) November 24th, 2014

A growing number of humane prairie dog removal organizations are emerging to meet the demand for kinder, friendlier pre-construction practices. Santa Fe, New Mexico based Eco Solutions LLC is one of these.

Owner Trent Botkin says the average number of prairie dogs per acre in its habitat are 10-20, though sometimes rapid urban development has forced greater numbers into smaller areas, sometimes as many as 50 per acre. “

Habitat Harmony is a prairie dog removal organization based out of Flagstaff.  Their volunteer team ptiches the benefit of their humane removal program to developers in a bid to protect populations of the Gunnison’s Prairie Dog,

Some firms, like Vintage Partners, a Phoenix-based firm, volunteer to bring in groups like Habitat Harmony, which paid the group to remove more than 1,000 burrowed prairie dogs from an 80-acre site in Flagstaff that as scheduled for grading.

“We’ve tried to be sensitive about these things,” says Walter Crutchfield, a partner at Vintage Partners. “Sometimes development just comes in and does what it does, taking marching orders from its tenants or investors or banks, and doesn’t take time. We wanted, instead, to do this right.”
More often developers and builders have gotten rid of the rodents by shooting or poisoning them, or in some cases even paving over their colonies.

But increasingly, notes Mark Conkling, there are “more and more cities that have ordinances saying that if you are going to build on a particular site there are certain precautionary measures you must take.”

Conkling is the author of the novel Prairie Dog Blues, a story about an Albuquerque family that is repeatedly frustrated in their attempts to remove prairie dogs from their property and in the process falls under the sway of the personable critters.

While doing research for his book, Conkling discovered that the very subject of prairie dogs, at least in the west, can spark dramatically polar views on their worth.

“There are ranches where they bait the prairie dogs and kids can learn how to shoot their .22 rifles at them,” says Conkling.

“And then there are people who would give up their right arm to save the prairie dogs, they chant and form circles around construction sites and chain themselves to the bull dozers,” he continues.

Mark Conkling 

Mark Conkling, author of Prairie Dog Blues: “all have a relationship with prairie dogs.”

“From the National Rifle Association to the most green person you can imagine, all have relationships with prairie dogs,” Conkling adds.

Prairie dog colonies are most common in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah and represent three species: the white-tailed prairie dog which lives in parts of Colorado; the black-tailed prairie dog in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado; and the Gunnison prairie dog, in both Arizona and Mexico.

They are protected by ordinances in some western locales, such as Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Boulder, although attempts to secure federal protection for them have proved unsuccessful.

As a result of the local ordinances prairie dog removal has become a needed business. But the task of catching them is anything but easy, revolving around the animal’s calendar: “Our window is April to September, minus a month and a half when they have babies,” says Botkin of the prairie dogs’ hibernation schedule.

“It is really a warm season thing, and if you miss that window, that can really stall out your construction project,” he adds.

While many volunteer re-locators use traps to capture and move prairie dogs, Botkin prefers the soapy water flushing method, using a 500-gallon water tank and power generator. The water is saturated with dish soap, which, when pushed by a hose into the animal’s burrow, forces the prairie dog to scamper out.

“When it does that, we grab it with either a net or by hand,” says Botkin, adding that he and his workers then towel the animal off. “If one of them is in the soap for longer than usual, we wash their eyes with a saline solution.”

But where to transport the animals, after capture, is another challenge. “We prefer to use abandoned colonies that are pretty far out of town, away from future development or conflicts with humans,” says Renn.

In 2008 the City of Santa Fe inked an agreement with the Bureau of Land Management to release captured prairie dogs to three area BLM sites.

Despite the challenges presented by delaying any work project in order to remove hundreds or even thousands of prairie dogs from a given site, Botkin says the developers and builders he has worked with like what he does.

“They appreciate that we stick to their timelines, stick to their costs and just get it done,” Botkin says.

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