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Sucking Prairie Dogs From Holes: Destination Japan

May 23, 1996

AMARILLO, Texas (AP) _ Using a vacuum truck to suck prairie dogs from their holes, a pest control company is making a profitable roundup of the burrowing rodents that are highly prized pets in Japan.

``These little guys are worth $700 apiece,″ said Gay Balfour, a co-owner of the company Dog Gone and inventor of the special vacuum.

Workers captured three to four dozen prairie dogs Tuesday using the vacuum, which noisily pulls the animals through a wide hose and into an enclosure. The vacuum pulls up lighter animals, leaving heavier adults alone.

``We’re just taking the young ones,″ said company co-owner Dave Honaker. ``They make good pets _ they’re real trainable and social animals.″

The Cortez, Colo., company has been capturing the squirrel-like rodents, which grow to about a foot long, for five years. The latest roundup is already in its fourth week.

An exotic pet dealer who made a deal with Amarillo landowner is marketing the prairie dogs, sucked from a 320-acre tract near this Texas Panhandle city.

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