Prairie Dog Humane Removal

ROE ECOLOGICAL SERVICES

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Do you need to remove prairie dogs from a property that is slated for development, or are prairie dogs damaging your landscaping or infrastructure? If so, we always recommend an analysis and implementation of non-lethal options, if available, such as: relocation to another property, onsite "passive" relocation, or avoidance. As part of our consultation process, we can help you identify whether any of these are viable options for the prairie dogs on your property, and can help you work through the process.

Where, however, the above are not viable options and there is no other conceivable, reasonable, humane non-lethal option, Roe Ecological Services can perform a "prairie dog humane removal" through which we live-trap, humanely euthanize, and donate the prairie dogs to a raptor rehabilitation program such as the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program for food. In this way, the prairie dogs are still able to serve a portion of their important ecological purpose and are not wasted, and are treated humanely and with dignity and respect throughout the entire process.



The humane removal process consists of our wildlife biologists capturing the prairie dogs on your property using aboveground cage-type live traps. This is the most efficient and humane capture method; we never "flush" (i.e., use gallons and gallons of soapy water to force the prairie dogs out of the burrow through threat of drowning) as it is considered inhumane. All non-target animals (such as cottontails or birds) that enter the traps are released unharmed onsite. Any trapped prairie dogs are then promptly humanely euthanized onsite with carbon dioxide (CO2) gas.

ROE biologists have developed a highly effective and humane euthanization system utilizing a gradual fill method (which causes the animal to lose consciousness before any discomfort or pain is felt), which is fully contained within each work vehicle. In addition to this euthanization technique, we make every effort to keep the animals as calm and stress-free as possible during the process. Our focus is on the humane treatment of the animals.
The prairie dogs are always covered from the trap site to the vehicle to reduce their stress; we use a truck with a topper to further minimize stress; we have a biologist on site monitoring the traps for trapped animals, prairie dog stress level, etc. so we can efficiently, and humanely, retrieve the prairie dogs from the trap site and release non-target wildlife; etc.

Please click HERE for a Letter of Recommendation from the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program


FAQs
- Why Choose ROE for your humane removal needs?
We previously compiled some statistics of trap projects from the beginning of 2008 through August 2009. Our capture rate during this period was 87-100% with an average of 94% by the end of the fifth day of active trapping in favorable weather after an adequate prebaiting/acclimation period (gets the prairie dogs used to the traps, which improves capture efficiency and effectiveness) for each trap set (each trap set consisted of up to 300 traps -- approx 1 trap per burrow -- with an average 3-6 day preceding prebaiting period). Looking at an additional four humane removal projects we conducted in the City of Boulder under their lethal control permit during 2012 - 2016, for example, our capture rate average by the end of the fifth day of active trapping after an adequate prebaiting/acclimation period was 90% with two of those projects resulting in 100% removal by the end of the fifth day of active trapping. Other trap projects on other sites across the Front Range of Colorado during these years likewise resulted in similar rates of capture.

How are we so effective and efficient? We have put a significant effort into studying prairie dog social behavior, foraging behavior, and seasonal bait development, not to mention continuously trying to improve our trapping methods. We are also absolutely dedicated to your project: we do not rely on volunteers and we don't work bankers' hours. If the site requires it, we will trap all day from dawn until dusk, and will work every day including weekends and holidays. We work hard to get the job done efficiently and effectively.

- Why does ROE live-trap rather than flush with soapy water?
Cage-type live-traps are placed near the burrow entrance and are baited to encourage the prairie dogs to enter the trap. The advantages to this method are: 1) if animals are checked regularly there is low stress on the animals trapped; and 2) one can avoid harming non-target wildlife. If non-target animals are trapped, they can be released onsite unharmed. There is a great deal of data available on this method which indicate that if conducted correctly, live-trapping has an extremely low rate of (if any) mortality and a high rate of effectiveness and efficiency.

Alternatively, "flushing" entails filling the burrows with water, usually with some sort of household detergent added, and waiting until the prairie dog emerges at which time they are noosed or caught by hand. The scientific literature indicates that the amount of water required per capture was, “[a]n average of 518 liters (136.8 gallons) of water and 946 grams (33 ounces) of detergent were required per capture; half the flooded burrows provided a capture.” In our search through the scientific literature, we found many biologists believe that water/burrow flushing drowns many prairie dogs and other wildlife in their burrows and may cause death due to hypothermia. It is technique unfortunately still utilized by many prairie dog "rescue" groups and "relocation specialists." Why? Good question.


- Why don't people ever see prairie dogs in our traps?
On just about every project, folks comment to us that they never see any prairie dogs in our traps and wonder why. The reason? ...because we are actually doing their job! Our biologists monitor the trap site all day, and pick 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 ROE, you are hiring 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.

- How does ROE treat protestors and other concerned citizens?
Unfortunately, many of our competitors and other contractors have no respect, or compassion, for protestors and concerned citizens. This causes those protestors and concerned citizens to harbor a residual level of distrust and anger towards anyone who performs any sort of lethal control service. Knowing people have differing opinions on what constitutes appropriate management when it comes to all species of wildlife, including prairie dogs, we always try to be as respectful, patient and understanding as possible with those folks who have questions, misunderstandings, or even those who are fundamentally against the death of any animal for any reason. This approach obviously helps resolve unanswered questions or misunderstandings and typically helps those folks appreciate the effort that we and our clients go through to try to ensure the prairie dogs are treated as humanely as possible and are not being wasted. For those folks who are passionately against death of any prairie dog, we will not change their minds, but we can at least remain respectful and dignified.

That being said, however, the moment anyone attempts to interfere with our relationship with the client, existing contracts, or the project itself, we will not hesitate to use private security and/or civil and criminal complaints, as necessary, to protect the project, our client, and our interests. Anyone considering interfering with one of our projects should keep in mind that where a person knowingly interferes with a contractual relationship, and causes a breach of the contract, that person could be liable for all actual damages, as well as possibly substantial punitive damages. In addition, C.R.S. § 33-6-115.5 prevents any intentional interference with a lawful trapping activity. Violation of this statute constitutes a misdemeanor carrying a minimum $500 fine plus "all damages incurred by the individual whose lawful activity was obstructed and for all court costs of prosecution." Finally, a contract need not yet be in existence for ROE to have legal recourse against a person seeking to interfere with our business or our clients. To wit, where a person knowingly interferes with or damages any of our prospective business relationships, that person could be held liable for the expected value of the prospective business relationship plus possible punitive damages. Injunctions are also always available as needed.


- Why does ROE use carbon dioxide?
You may have heard that carbon monoxide (CO) is more humane than carbon dioxide (CO2). In fact, because we we use the "gradual fill" method (see below) and so careful to ensure that the animals experience no pain or discomfort throughout the process, the reactions we've observed using CO2 are no greater than those which have been reported as being associated with CO. Further, CO is extremely expensive, 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), is a significant explosion hazard, and is not readily available in cylinders suitable for remote/mobile use. CO2 carries none of these risks. For information regarding the humane use of CO2 for euthanization, please go to page 25 of the American Veterinary Medication Association Guidelines for the euthanasia of Animals: 2013 Edition describing the "gradual fill" method: "As a general rule, a gentle death that takes longer is preferable to a rapid, but more distressing death.... If an appropriate gradual displacement rate is used, animals will lose consciousness before CO2 concentrations become painful." As such, we are absolutely confident 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.  

- What if ROE cannot catch all the prairie dogs—does ROE offer follow-up fumigation?
As noted above, many of our projects result in nearly 100% removal within five days of active trapping. However, because we are dealing with live, sometimes unpredictable animals, and many of these sites are urban with high levels of human disturbance, sometimes a very low percentage of individuals are 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, and there isn't enough time to try to trap the remaining animals, we may subcontract a follow-up fumigation to a state-licensed fumigator.

We subcontract any follow-up fumigation - rather than taking care of it "in-house" - so that our 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, we avoid even the appearance of negligence or impropriety, and maintain professional credibility in the face of third-party and/or public scrutiny. As such, our clients - and the public - may rest assured that we gave the trapping effort the absolute best effort.



Examples of Local Laws/Regulations
- City of Boulder, Colorado

The City of Boulder (Boulder) has a “Wildlife Protection Ordinance” (Chapter 6-1 B.R.C 1981, Ordinance No. 7321 (2005)), which covers activities pertaining to prairie dog management within the city’s jurisdictional boundaries. As stated on Boulder's website:

City ordinance requires landowners to obtain a permit from the city before using any form of lethal control on prairie dogs. In order to obtain a permit, the landowner must demonstrate the following:

  • a reasonable effort has been made to relocate the prairie dogs to another site;
  • the most humane method of lethal control possible will be used;
  • the land on which the prairie dogs are located will be developed within 15 months of the date of the application, a principal use of the land will be adversely impacted in a significant manner by the presence of prairie dogs on the site, or an established landscaping or open space feature will be adversely impacted by the prairie dogs; and
  • the landowner has an adequate plan designed to prevent the reentry of prairie dogs onto the land after the prairie dogs are lawfully removed.


ROE has helped numerous clients receive lethal control permits from Boulder and our biologists are available to help you complete the permit application process, including: helping you complete the the application; performing the associated population and habitat assessments; getting together all required documentation; making a reasonable effort to identify a release site; relocating the prairie dogs if a site is available; and conducting the humane removal and coordinating final fumigation of any untrappable prairie dogs.


- City of Longmont, Colorado

The City of Longmont Land Development Code Section 15.05.030.G.9. requires the prairie dogs on a site slated for development be relocated. Only after a good faith effort to identify a suitable relocation site has been made (and a suitable relocation site was not found), can a developer then eradicate the prairie dogs. Under the Code, the developer is expected to consult with the City about alternatives (e.g., avoidance, passive relocation, and trap and donation to a raptor rehabilitation or black-footed ferret recovery program (i.e., humane removal)) before the use of in-burrow fumigants or poison baits are authorized by the City.