Prairie Dog Humane Removal

RES captures prairie dogs using aboveground cage-type live traps. This is the most efficient and humane capture method. All non-target animals that may be trapped are released unharmed and the prairie dogs are quickly and humanely euthanized on site with carbon dioxide (CO2 ) gas.

RES has developed a highly effective euthanization system, which is fully contained within each work vehicle. RES uses CO2 exclusively because it has proven to be much more humane, safe, and effective than nitrogen, argon, or other gases. RES also does not use cervical dislocation (i.e., breaking the animal’s neck) because it can easily be botched – causing unnecessary pain and suffering. In addition to using an effective and efficient gas, RES makes every effort to keep the animals as calm and stress-free as possible during the process. This further ensures a highly humane euthanization process. As such, the prairie dogs euthanized with RES’ method succumb quickly and without suffering.

The carcasses are then frozen and taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center, such as the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program facility. Thus, the animals fulfill at least a portion of their ecological purpose rather than being wasted.

Discussion of Humane vs. Inhumane Capture Techniques

Prairie Dog Trapping

Why Choose RES for your humane removal needs?
It is true that RES makes these projects seem easy—just as all professionals at the top of their game make the difficult look easy. RES recently compiled some statistics of trap projects from the beginning of 2008 through August 2009 RES’ capture rate during this period was 87-100%. On average, of the more than 3,000 prairie dogs humanely captured by RES during this period, 94+% were captured by the end of the fifth day of trapping. These numbers are unmatched by any other entity that RES knows of currently conducting trapping activities and are arguably even better than results of traditional fumigation.

RES has been engaged in humane prairie dog removal and management efforts longer than any of the current competitors, and has seen nearly every situation related to prairie dogs—the political aspects as well as the technical. In addition, RES appears to be the only entity in this field that puts a significant effort into studying prairie dog social behavior, foraging behavior, and seasonal bait development, not to mention their ongoing concern with improving trapping methods themselves. RES stands alone in their ability to adapt to nearly any situation. This is why their clients often come away with the impression that trapping prairie dogs is easy. RES makes it look easy.

Why Don't People Ever See Prairie Dogs in Your Traps?
People often comment that they never see any prairie dogs in RES' traps and wonder why. The reason? ...because RES is actually doing their job! RES monitors their trap sites all day, and picks the animals up frequently throughout the day to ensure the lowest stress and most humane treatment possible.

Other contractors don't have this same commitment - often checking their traps just once a day and leaving the prairie dogs, and other trapped wildlife, confined in the traps for hours upon hours. While this may be all that is "technically" required under state law, and may be "acceptable" in the general "pest control" industry, leaving animals confined in a trap for - in some cases - up to 24-hours isn't generally considered humane. With RES, you are hiring Certified Wildlife Biologists, not exterminators, so you can be assured that that the animals on your project will be treated as humanely and respectfully as possible, that the project is taken seriously, and that your good-faith efforts toward humane removal are maximized.

Why Carbon Dioxide?

You may have heard that carbon monoxide (CO) is more humane than carbon dioxide (CO2). This is a myth based on uninformed perception or misapplication of scientific reports that have no bearing on this particular application for prairie dogs. Also, this misinformation is distributed by animal activists who obviously don't want prairie dogs to die under any circumstances and hence would criticize any gas used for the euthanization process. If CO were in fact used, they would then claim that CO is inhumane...

RES has observed for many years that the prairie dogs RES euthanizes with CO2 — using carefully developed methodology to minimize suffering to the absolute greatest extent possible — succumb  extremely quickly.  This is likely due in part to the equipment and concentration of CO2 used and, perhaps even more importantly, due to the fact that RES makes every effort to keep the prairie dogs as calm and stress-free as possible.   

RES has tried other gases and have found that CO2 was the  quickest and most effective with the least amount of symptoms. In fact, the symptoms observed with CO2 are no greater than those which have been reported as being associated with CO. Further, CO is extremely expensive and poses a significant human health hazard in an enclosed  area (such as the back of a truck or a building where the CO euthanization would occur) and a significant explosion hazard. CO2 carries none of these risks.

RES believes fully that our methodology and utilization  of CO2 is very humane and even if there were a slight benefit  to CO over CO2, from our experience, the benefit would be negligible at best and certainly does not outweigh the potential risk to ourselves, other people, or property.  

For More Information: 2007 American Veterinary Medical Association Guidelines on Euthanasia

Follow-up Fumigation

What if RES cannot catch all the prairie dogs—does RES offer follow-up fumigation?
As noted above, many of RES’ projects result in nearly 100% removal within five days of active trapping. However, because these projects deal with live, sometimes unpredictable animals, sometimes a very small number of individuals may be trap-shy and unwilling to enter the traps. The percentage of individuals exhibiting this behavior varies depending on site-specific factors. If the project requires an absolute 100% removal, RES will subcontract the work to a state-licensed fumigator.

Why does RES outsource this work instead of doing it themselves, like other companies?
RES subcontracts this portion of the removal effort so that their removal success via humane trapping can be independently verified. Entities that handle both trapping and follow-up fumigation "in-house" may be tempted to conduct – for the same premium fee – only a minimal live-capture effort, and end up fumigating more animals than would normally be acceptable.

By outsourcing the final fumigation, RES avoids even the appearance of negligence or impropriety, and maintains professional credibility in the face of third-party and/or public scrutiny. As such, RES’ clients may rest assured that RES gave the trapping effort the absolute best effort, and that the client’s money was wisely spent.

How does RES minimize the cost and impact of final fumigation?
Other companies may charge to fumigate the entire site – including all active AND inactive burrows – after completing their “trapping effort.” This obviously drives up costs and increases the amount of pesticide unnecessarily applied to the environment.

Alternatively, if RES conducts the project, client’s can be assured that the final fumigation efforts will be as minimal and inexpensive as possible. Because RES is typically on site all day during active trapping, RES is able to observe the prairie dogs and can identify and isolate any few remaining trap-shy animals. By doing so, RES significantly reduces the number of burrows in need of treatment, and thus the final fumigation costs. This also reduces any unnecessary release of pesticides into the environment. In addition, by specifically targeting a select few burrows on the site for final fumigation, RES significantly reduces the likelihood of killing non-target species that might also be utilizing the burrow systems on the site.

What method does RES recommend for final fumigation?
RES typically recommends the use of aluminum phosphide tablets for final fumigation. Unfortunately, we do understand that this goes against the preferences of activists. Prairie dog activists promote the use of ignitable carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide cartridges as being more humane than aluminum phosphide. Because of RES' absolute dedication to the most humane treatment of prairie dogs and other wildlife, RES too would recommend the use of these cartridges if, in reality, they actually worked. The problem is that these cartridges are extremely expensive with extremely low efficacy.

Yes, carbon dioxide (and carbon monoxide) in a controlled situation is very humane and works very quickly. The problem is that in a uncontrolled situation - such as a natural burrow system - it simply is not effective. Many local municipalities, based on pressure from local prairie dog activists, have spent thousands of dollars on these cartridges and have subsequently abandoned using them because they just don't work.

Further, although the cartridges rarely result in death, it is unknown what effect they actually are having on the prairie dogs, and other non-target wildlife, in the burrow system. It would be logical to assume that at least some of the animals are being asphyxiated - just not to the point of death. So, repeated exposure to the cartridges could arguably be viewed as repeated torture.

This is why RES works so hard to trap the absolute maximum number of prairie dogs from a site before having to resort to a final fumigation. Once the decision has been made to fumigate, however, RES believes it is much more humane that the animals only have to be forced to endure it once.

© 2012 Roe Ecological Services       PO Box 1168, Berthoud, CO 80513 | (970) 532-1305