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Prairie dog transplant questioned

Prairie dog transplant questioned

Apr 3, 2012 - The Associated Press

GILLETTE (AP) -- Some Campbell County residents say they are concerned about plans by the U.S. Forest Service to transplant prairie dogs from one part of the Thunder Basin National Grassland to another in northeast Wyoming.

U.S. Forest Service officials propose to move prairie dogs from Weston and Converse counties, saying that the animals carry plague. They said they want to move the rodents to reduce the possibility of transmitting the disease.

The proposal would move the prairie dogs to a different area of the Thunder Basin National Grassland near the border of Campbell County.

Opponents say the prairie dogs could move deep into Campbell County but Forest Service officials say that isn't likely.

"For the most part, they stay in the same place their entire life," said Aaron Voos, a Forest Service spokesman. "The populations are very volatile. They go up and down, based on plague or predation. They could very easily lose ground as soon as they gain it."

Ranchers and Campbell County commissioners also say prairie dogs take up too much land as it is and damage the range.

"We've got enough prairie dogs scattered through the state," Commissioner Matt Avery said.

With approval from the Wyoming Fish & Game Department, the plan eventually could enable the reintroduction of endangered black-footed ferrets. Ferrets eat prairie dogs.

There are no current plans to establish black-footed ferrets in the area.

To collect the prairie dogs, Forest Service employees will use baited traps and pump foam into their tunnels to flush them out. The number of prairie dogs moved will depend on the amount of funding and number of volunteers available to help.

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