A SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM OUR PRAIRIE DOG RELOCATION TEAM
My name is Trent Botkin and I'll be leading the on-the-ground prairie dog relocation efforts in Clovis this winter, along with crucial support from Bold Visions Conservation and Susan Hubby.
My company, Eco Solutions, is based in Santa Fe and has successfully relocated thousands of prairie dogs from Northern and Central New Mexico since 2007, and we are excited to be part of this effort.
The rescue has been delayed as a big winter storm moves across the whole state this weekend, right on top of our proposed capture dates (Nov. 21-24). While we are able to capture during cool seasonal temperatures this time of year, we can't risk the prairie dogs' health capturing/releasing with daytime highs near freezing.
The capture will be delayed a couple weeks, but we will get the job done. I hope that the city personnel and private citizens will see how the relocation of prairie dogs is a viable, humane option that results in positive public perception and an enhanced ecosystem elsewhere.
I recently visited the proposed release site and am very pleased with the high number of existing, dormant prairie dog burrows and the available forage. It is an ideal release site and I'm confident the prairie dogs will establish quickly. There is evidence that burrowing owls may be overwintering in a couple burrows, and Rocky Mountain elk occasionally use this area as a nighttime grazing area. The ranch manager said that the coyote population is very small on ranch and I saw no evidence of badger diggings in the old prairie dog town, so even with raptors the depredation should be low.
A question that came up is, "Why aren't there prairie dogs in this town if its such good habitat?" This prairie dog town was established in the late 1990's with prairie dogs from Otero Mesa. The population boomed in some areas, surging past sustainability, and many of the prairie dogs were captured and used to start additional prairie dogs towns under the guidance of organtizations such as the United States Fish & Wildlife Service and The Arizona Game and Fish Department. After years of such use, the population had been drastically reduced and then suffered under this most recent 3-5 year drought that hit the prairie dogs hard by removing the grass and seed forage base they rely on. There remains a small prairie dog population in one section of the proposed release site, and I'm sure they will be glad to see a bunch of new prairie dogs move into the neighborhood, especially with breeding season just a couple months away. I plan on setting up some motion-activated cameras to capture some images of the prairie dogs as they explore their new territory.
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