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Groups Say Taking Species Out of the 'Doghouse' Benefits Entire Prairie

August 13, 2007

Conservation groups are urging the Interior Department not to 'burrow' their heads into the sand when it comes to New Mexico's prairie dogs. Lauren McCain with Forest Guardians wants to see the black-tailed prairie dog protected under the Endangered Species Act.

"The black-tailed prairie dog has declined by over 98 percent. Its threats include shooting and poisoning and sylvatic plague, which it dies from, and also urbanization."

The black-tailed prairie dog is found on the high plains and grasslands, mostly in eastern New Mexico. McCain s notes that many kinds of hawks, owls, ferrets, foxes and other animals are dependent upon prairie dogs.

Dozens of other species depend upon prairie dogs. McCain points out that they're food for many predators, and their burrows are home to other animals like the burrowing owl.

"So, when prairie dogs go, so do a lot of other species, a lot of species that people would really like to see, even if they don't like prairie dogs themselves."

Forest Guardians has joined with several other groups to petition the Interior Department to protect the black-tailed prairie dogs. The request follows a lawsuit filed against the government in February that challenges a 2004 decision not to protect the species.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM