National Geographic : 1998 Aug
While prairie dog populations are a shadow of what existed before the settlement of the West, they have exploded in many parts of Colorado. Ask anyone who has been around the Denver suburbs for 20 years or more. All those black-tailed dogs in fields and vacant lots weren't there in the 1960s and '70s. The white-tailed dogs near my home in rural north western Colorado are so numerous that many years of "popping dogs" by locals has had no visible effect on the population. Road-killed dogs are so common that I once saw a stretch of highway that seemed to be paved in fur. KEITH EILERS Rangely, Colorado It seems a pipe dream to attribute so many good works to one small rodent. They are cute, but the prairie dog towns on my ranch pastures resemble the face of the moon-denuded dirt covered with craters. My shoulder still hurts at night from when my horse stepped in an old hole years ago and rolled, breaking my collarbone and shoulder blade, luckily with no damage to the horse. Well, plague wiped out one prairie dog town a few years ago. I shoot a few sometimes, but I still have lots of them slowly expanding the face of the moon. JAMES R. FLOYD Liberal, Kansas One possible solution to the prairie dog problem might be for cities or wildlife groups to compensate ranchers for placing the dogs on their land. This cost would be minuscule compared with court battles or land purchases to provide space for the animals. With cattle prices what they are now, if the rancher were compensated fairly, it might be more profitable to raise prairie dogs. MICHAEL SHAY Greeley, Colorado You state that Santa Fe maintains a colony in one municipal park. But the March 27 Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the city has been quietly gas sing prairie dog colonies in parks around the city [to prevent injuries from holes in playing fields]. It makes me sad to think that we can't live with the animals that were here long before we were. MARGARET M. GALLAHER Santa Fe, New Mexico Letters for FORUM should be sent to National Geographic Magazine, Box 98198, Washington, D.C. 20090-8198, or by fax to 202-828-5460, or via the Internet to ngsforum@ nationalgeographic.com.Include name, address, and day time telephone. Letters may be editedfor clarity and space.