By Kevin Wilson
CNJ STAFF WRITER
Chaves County doesn’t want prairie dogs, and the Clovis City Commission declined on Thursday night to help a citizens group bring them there.
By a unanimous vote, the commission denied a request by Citizens for Prairie Dogs to capture prairie dogs from the Clovis Civic Center, O.G. Potter Park and the Goodwin Lake Walking Trails and move them to Bureau of Land Management property in Chaves County.
The group was asking for up to 3,000 gallons of city water, which would have been used as part of a sudsy mix to flush the animals out of their burrows on city land. All other costs were to be undertaken by Bold Visions Conservation of Albuquerque.
“We just want to save the prairie dogs, remove them, relocate them humanely,” said Susan Hubby of Citizens for Prairie Dogs.
Not many others at the meeting were interested.
Jack Muse of Clovis, in sentiments echoed by other citizens, said the city should look into an ordinance that declares the animal a public nuisance and require property owners eradicate them.
Johnny Chavez said he was dismayed by accounts of prairie dogs being found in city pools and holes in youth baseball practice fields.
“We don’t need them; nobody else wants them,” Chavez said.
City Commissioner Fidel Madrid said no matter the solution, there was a need for the city to work with private citizens. For example, the city could either poison or remove the prairie dogs at Potter Park, but it would only be a temporary fix because the city can’t touch the private property next door, where many of the prairie dogs live.
Regarding the land where the prairie dogs would be kept, Joe Adair of Bold Visions said the land was controlled by the BLM, and any desire they have for the land supersedes a recent ordinance by the Chaves County Commission outlawing the importation of prairie dogs into the county from another entity.
Adair said that prairie dogs would take centuries to get from that BLM land to private ranch land, but that wasn’t enough to convince Chaves County Commissioner James Duffy, who came to Clovis for the meeting.
“We spend thousands and thousands of dollars to eradicate prairie dogs,” Duffy said. “They are rodents.”
He noted the Curry County Commission had a similar ordinance in the works and said, with no intent of being flippant, if prairie dogs aren’t good enough for Curry County they certainly shouldn’t be good enough for Chaves County.
Commissioner Bobby Sandoval, who also serves on the Curry County Commission, agreed.
“The trouble I have is that the Chaves County Commission doesn’t want them,” Sandoval said. “If you get the commission on board, I’ll help load ‘em up.”
Blake Prather of Clovis said he did some research, and noted there were at least 24 million black tailed prairie dogs in a 10-state area including New Mexico and Texas. That total, which Prather said was a low-end estimate, is more than the human population of the nine non-Texas states.
“Relocation has never worked,” Prather said. “It has not been addressed in the past, and they’ve taken over three or four of your parks.”
Adair and Hubby noted that there are other tracts of land where the prairie dogs can be placed, but the Chaves County land makes the most sense for many reasons. They said they could make the offer again with a piece of land, but said they wouldn’t want to disclose the location of the land and put that landowner through the whole process taking place between Curry and Chaves counties.
Mayor David Lansford said confidentiality in that manner would be unacceptable. He said whether it was prairie dogs or nuclear waste, the city has a responsibility to be completely open to its citizens and everybody else about where it puts something it doesn’t want.
“It would be irresponsible to dispense it to where we don’t know about it.”