700 acres of land located in East Lubbock serves as the city's treated waste water application site. The city is required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (or TCEQ) to keep vegetation growing on those acres to absorb the nitrate from waste water, but a booming Prairie Dog population is getting in the way.
John Hindman, Farm Manager for the City of Lubbock says, "It came to the point where we had to do something and we've met with different groups and West Texas Parks and Wildlife to try to come up with some kind of program because it never was our intention to control them by destroying Prairie Dogs." But that's what it has come down to.
On four different occasions over the past two weeks, the city has dropped poison into Prairie Dog holes on the land and covered those holes up.
Some criticize the city's decision to poison the Prairie Dogs. They say the city didn't exhaust all of the alternatives and they worry the poison will kill not only Prairie Dogs but all the wildlife on the land.
Prairie Dog Activist, Lynda Watson says it has not even been proven prairie dogs are harming Lubbock's wastewater land. She says the animals are being killed because the city has waged a senseless war on helpless animals. "The city did not go the distance to solve the situation and they won't stop until they've killed every prairie dog in town."
The city did enlist Lynda's help before they resorted to poison but they decided her relocation efforts were not cost effective. Hindman says, "A lot of the reason it didn't work was because the population was so high." Lynda says she removed about 2,500 prairie dogs from the site, but the city says it was more like 300 with a price tag of $17,000.
For now, controlled poisoning will continue until federally protected burrowing owls begin nesting on the land this spring. The city says the poison strategy seems to be working. They still have over 300 acres left to cover and expect to use poison control each year as necessary.