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Longmont City Council Approves Amended Prairie Dog Ordinance

January 9, 2019
Longmont City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to enact an ordinance that will require property owners to make a good faith attempt to move prairie dogs to other habitat before killing them.

A divided Longmont City Council on Tuesday night voted 5-2 to adopt an ordinance that will require property owners to make a good faith attempt to have prairie dogs moved to better digs before killing them.

On Tuesday night, the council also approved an amendment to the ordinance that exempts police and animal control officers from liability should they have to kill a prairie dog, so long as they don’t go into a prairie dog colony or habitat to do so.

As Mayor Brian Bagley put it, the amendment allows for police action “If there is a rabid prairie dog in a window well, so they can take care of it without going to jail.”

Council members Bonnie Finley and Marcia Martin voted against the ordinance, which will take effect Jan. 21.

The council in December passed a first reading of the ordinance that allows people who wish to kill 25 or fewer prairie dogs to apply for an expedited process. However, that expedited process can not be used to kill prairie dogs in small batches, 25 at a time.

People wishing to remove more than 25 prairie dogs from their properties would have to make a good-faith attempt at having the animals moved to a suitable habitat elsewhere, if such sunnier climes can be found within 90 days of the owner applying for a major prairie dog management permit.

On Tuesday night, the council rejected a proposed amendment that would require a year-long moratorium on development after the prairie dogs are removed or exterminated.

The city council initially toyed with and later abandoned a requirement for the city to keep a registry of relocation sites approved by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Instead, the ordinance requires a public notification and comment period that would place the burden of moving the animals on prairie dog activists.

Martin, explaining her no vote, said that prairie dog relocation is inhumane, which prompted her to vote against the measure. She added that she might have voted differently if prairie dogs were endangered or a keystone species in urban areas.

Martin said that she also hopes the issue is put to bed, because the city has far more urgent issues that need to be addressed.

“I want to say I think we’ve spent way to much time on this at expense of issues that ought to be of greater concern to the city, mostly on humanitarian matters,” she said. “We have homeless people dying in the street. They count more to me than individual prairie dogs.”

John Bear: 303-473-1355, bearj@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/johnbearwithme

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