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Longmont Animal Control Seeks Exemption from Prairie Dog Management Measure

January 6, 2019
Prairie dogs are seen near McIntosh Lake in Longmont on Dec. 17,

If you go

What: Longmont City Council

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Civic Center council chambers, 350 Kimbark St.

Agenda: tinyurl.com/y8buzwak

Longmont’s Police Services Division has asked city council to consider exempting law enforcement from a pending ordinance that would require city permits to kill or remove prairie dogs from public and private properties.

The ordinance, scheduled Tuesday for a public hearing and a possible final council vote to adopt it, would set requirements for property owners whenever they seek to exterminate or relocate the animals .

The new prairie dog management permit requirements, which got initial council approval on Dec. 18, would apply to all properties, regardless of if they have a pending development application.

However, the police department’s Animal Control unit has asked for an exemption from the measure so its officers can “continue to assist the community with prairie dog issues without having to obtain a permit,” according to a staff memo prepared for Tuesday’s council meeting.

“Animal Control serves Longmont citizens in a multitude of situations that they face weekly, or sometimes daily, in regards to prairie dogs,” staff wrote.

“For example, homeowners call for assistance with a prairie dog stuck in a window well or a bedroom, and citizens call where prairie dogs were struck by a passing car or hurt by a backyard dog. There are also sick, diseased prairie dogs that are also encountered and in need of proper disposition.”

Staff stated “the scope and timeliness of services that Animal Control provides to the community would be negatively impacted without an exemption” from the prairie-dog ordinance.

Police Sgt. Jesse Buchholtz, who is in charge of the Animal Control unit, said the unit’s community service officers have reported that calls about prairie dog problems amount to “the dozens” in “about a year’s time.”

As currently written, the ordinance would prevent an Animal Control officer from doing anything if a prairie dog has gotten into a home or garage, he said.. Nor could an officer capture a prairie dog and take it to an animal rehabilitation or rescue center, he said.

“Nobody could touch it” without going through the process of first getting a city permit, Buchholtz said.

The ordinance, which was amended by council last month to include a number of, but not all of, the revisions sought by prairie dog advocates, would require property owners to get prairie dog management permits before killing the animals.

Current city prairie dog regulations generally only apply to private properties that have applied for formal city approval of development or redevelopment project proposals.

The ordinance would create two categories of prairie dog management permits. A property owner could seek a “minor management permit” to destroy or remove fewer than 25 prairie dogs, as well as an expedited review process to get the city’s permission to do so.

A “major management permit” would be required if the property owner is seeking to get rid of more than 25 prairie dogs. Anyone seeking to destroy more than 25 prairie dogs would first have to make a good-faith attempt to relocate them to suitable habitat elsewhere before being allowed to kill them.

If the property for which a major management permit is being sought is not the subject of a development application, there could be a 90-day waiting and public comment period before the city can give permission to exterminate the animals.

If the property is the subject of a pending development application, there would be at least a 30-day public notice and comment period before extermination would be allowed.

Council members have emphasized they want prairie dog protection advocates to bear much of the burden and responsibility for working with property owners to find relocation sites and to get Colorado Parks and Wildlife and city approval of relocation plans.

Longmont would maintain a list of qualified prairie dog relocation contractors property owners would have to use. A company would have to have at least three years of experience relocating prairie dogs and the company’s team would have to include a natural resources professional with experience in wildlife biology and plant ecology.

In order to get on the city list, a company would have to provide all the methods used during relocation, including the number of traps, the days of baiting those traps, how often traps are monitored, the days of trapping, the method of transporting prairie dogs and the facility for holding live prairie dogs.

No landowners could allow the extermination of prairie dogs without posting notice on the property for at least 14 days in advance.

No relocations could occur between April 1 and June 1, prairie dogs’ birthing period.

Applicants for a major prairie dog management permit would have to pay a $500 processing fee to offset city administrative costs. There would be no fee for a minor prairie dog management permit.

Property owners getting major management permits also would be charged a $1,200 fee for each acre of active prairie dog habitat that is lost because of the animals’ removal. The city’s revenues from that habitat fee could be used for acquiring additional public lands to serve as prairie dog habitat, for creating new habitat or improving existing habitat, as well as for preserving and protecting existing prairie dog colonies.

However, the city could waive all or part of that habitat fee in situations where the landowner “has used only humane methods to destroy the prairie dogs,” such as pressurized carbon monoxide rather than a poisonous chemical pesticide.

All or part of the $1,200 habitat fee also could be waived if the animals are successfully relocated to a different portion of the same property rather than being exterminated.

Contact Staff Writer John Fryar at 303-684-5211 or jfryar@times-call.com or twitter.com/jfryartc

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