The effort to remove Prairie Dogs from the city farm has hit a minor snag, but the plan is working. Re locaters have cleared about half the acreage at the land application site in less than a year.
The plan is working, but it is on hold. That's because both the remaining Prairie Dogs and the burrowing owls that still live out there, are giving birth right now. But, once those pups and chicks get old enough to survive on their own, the relocation efforts will kick back in again.
"We'll probably start moving more Prairie Dogs out in about 30 days," says Lynda Watson. Watson is the woman heading up the relocation effort. Despite this current set-back, Watson says the project is going well.
Moving the young would result in a lot of Prairie Dog deaths, the exact thing the city is now trying to avoid. After all, the city only considered this plan after a controversial plan to kill the Prairie Dogs died itself, because of criticism from animal rights groups. That plan also got the City of Lubbock a lot of unwanted media attention from all over the world.
The city is removing the dogs from the city farm because that is where Lubbock disposes of its treated waste water. The Prairie Dogs are said to be eating too much of the vegetation. Also, their burrows are allowing too much effluent to seep into the ground, which is said to be contaminating the aquifer.
So far, about 3,000 Prairie Dogs have been removed from the center pivot areas of the farm. The city is leaving a strip of tall grass around the pivot area, which will keep the Prairie Dogs out because they won't go where they can't see.
Watson points out that all of the relocated Prairie Dogs are going to zoos, state parks and private ranches. She says if people are noticing more Prairie Dogs near the roads, it's because of drought. The runoff and sweat from the roads results in more vegetation near them, which is attracting the rodents.
Overall, the plan is moving forward and the city is pleased with the effort. Watson estimates it will be several more months before the relocation project is complete.