Meet the Prairie Dog
And its friend, the burrowing owl
By Richard “Bugman” Fagerlund
Prairie dogs are very smart and can vocalize different sounds, which identify many of the animals that feed on them. They have one of the most sophisticated of all animal languages. They recognize hawks, eagles, coyotes, snakes and, of course, humans. All of the other animals kill them for food, which is the way nature is supposed to work. Humans kill them for fun and profit. Prairie dogs like to socialize and constantly visit other prairie dogs and even groom each other. When two prairie dogs meet, they nuzzle and kiss each other.
Prairie dogs share their villages with other animals, including some that are federally protected such as the burrowing owl. The owl is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). In 1972 all raptors, including eagles, hawks, owls and others were added to the MBTA. Gunnison's prairie dog, which we have here in New Mexico, is also a candidate for the Endangered Species Act as it is getting very rare due to the unmitigated thrill-killing of these animals by people who are absolutely heartless. Right now we have a prairie dog hunt in New Mexico where a bunch of hunters go out and shoot prairie dogs with rifles so they can watch them explode and then collect their tails so they can prove they killed them. The one who turns in the most tails will win a rifle. What he really needs is a soul. These people have no problem shooting bullets into prairie dog villages and endangering protected owls. They don't care that the prairie dog is a candidate for the Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately the laws protecting species are not clear. Apparently you have to be shooting at and deliberately killing an owl to get prosecuted. It is okay to shoot bullets into a habitat where protected animals live and if you kill one, oh well. This needs to be addressed by the proper authorities.
These so-called hunters tell the news media that they are doing ranchers and farmers a favor by killing the prairie dogs. Last month they were killing coyotes that feed on prairie dogs. Who were they doing a favor for then? The gun shops that are selling rifles are the only ones that benefit. How anyone can get any satisfaction in shooting a very small helpless animal is beyond me. Of course, I am sure that if prairie dogs had little pistols, these so-called hunters would never get out of their trucks.
Prairie dogs are often gassed or poisoned in many areas around the state for the sole reason that they are totally misunderstood. They can be relocated to other areas where they will thrive, but agencies in charge, who make the decisions, want to kill them. A couple of years ago, a church in Los Lunas hired a pest control company to kill some prairie dogs on their property. They thought they were dangerous to the parishioners. Of course, they were wrong as prairie dogs are not dangerous at all. The pest control company gassed the prairie dog holes and didn't check them for burrowing owls. There were some owls present, and the pest control company got seriously reprimanded. When I asked the pastor why he had the prairie dogs gassed, he just said, “I don't give a rat's ass about prairie dogs.” I don't think he realizes that prairie dogs are God's creations as well and weren't put here for our killing entertainment.
And I certainly don't think Jesus would engage in this kind of satanic barbarism, which is what prairie dog hunting is. He would cry.
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