Dog Gone It!
Several conservation groups have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider listing as endangered the black-tailed prairie dog, a keystone prairie species. Prairie dog populations have declined by 99 percent, and their habitat has shrunk to less than 1 percent of its historic size, reduced by farming, development, and decades of government-funded eradication efforts. But many Westerners, who consider the critters to be pests and have even made a small industry out of sport-shooting them, don’t take kindly to the notion of protecting the animals. Prairie dogs are blamed for eating grass earmarked for cows, undermining fence posts, and chewing into underground power and phone lines.