Prairie dogs met match in farmer - Rodent colony exterminated, halting potential establishment of nonnative species in state
 
 
(Note: Language Deception plays a leading role in these five articles about Harvey Brooks and his twenty errant prairie dogs. "Nonnative species" is very skillfully woven into the fabric of these stories and it is done in such a way that "invasive species" almost has to be accepted as fact to all but the savviest of readers.)
 
 
December 18, 2005
 
 
 
By Dennis Lien dlien@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5588
 
St. Paul Pioneer Press
 
St. Paul, Minnesota
 
 
To submit a Letter to the Editor: letters@pioneerpress.com
 
 
 

It was the infestation that never was. One Minnesota horse farmer saw to that.

Faced with 20 newly released black-tailed prairie dogs digging up his horse pasture near Mankato, Harvey Brooks made a business decision. He poisoned them, filled in the burrows and kept the pasture safe for his horses.

In the process, Brooks took care of a quandary that state wildlife officials otherwise would have faced this winter: Because prairie dogs aren't native to Minnesota, they would have had to figure out what to do with them.

He also highlighted a growing problem in Minnesota and across the nation: People who release nonnative birds, animals or reptiles, including pets, into the wild. Letting them go in Minnesota, even accidentally, is illegal and often ends badly, with the creatures competing with native species or unable to survive the harsh climate.

In just the past year, several ornamental carp, a Caiman crocodile, and South American catfish and pacu have been found in or near state waters. In addition, Eurasian collared-doves, which have spread across the nation since being released three decades ago in the Bahamas, are making deeper inroads into the state.

"This is one of the pathways that, in the past, has not received a lot of attention, '' said Jay Rendall, coordinator of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' invasive species program. "More and more species are showing up in the wild.''

For the first time, DNR officials have found prairie dogs in the state: one solitary prairie dog near Holland in southwestern Minnesota and the colony observed northeast of Mankato.

Authorities aren't concerned about the one near Holland. It's not far from its nearest natural range in South Dakota and likely got here on its own.

But the ones in Brooks' field were different. DNR agents weren't sure whether the animals, which thrive in short prairie grasses and avoid tall grasses where predators can hide, would have flourished if they had survived.

"People are somewhat concerned they can spread, but I kind of doubt they can,'' said Joel Anderson, the DNR's Nicollet area wildlife manager. "We don't have that much of their kind of habitat. There's not a whole lot of prairie around here. It's more corn and soybeans.''

Brooks, who owns Meadowbrook Stables and has 40 horses that use the pasture, had no interest in being a good host.

After showing the prairie dogs to a DNR assistant in August, he said the agent told him he could kill the animals, which aren't protected by state law. So he did.

Neither Brooks nor the DNR knows exactly how the prairie dogs got there, but Brooks said a relative told him that someone live-trapped 20 prairie dogs in Montana this summer, brought them back to Minnesota and tried unsuccessfully to sell them to an area pet store.

Because of an outbreak of monkeypox, a rare viral disease, it has been illegal to buy, sell or trade prairie dogs in the United States since 2003.

Ryan Blakley, owner of Walter's World of Pets in Lubbock, Texas, said he once sold a lot of the sociable animals as pets.

"They are one of the best pet rodents you can get,'' Blakley said. "I get people who still call me today about them.''

When he couldn't get a pet store to buy them, Brooks said the man released the animals near his pasture, where he said they took over gopher holes and made them larger.

He hasn't seen any more prairie dogs since he poisoned them late last summer.

"I had to do something, or the horses would have broken their legs,'' Brooks said.

He also never told the DNR, prompting the agency to begin a full-scale analysis of prairie dogs as a potential threat in Minnesota.

Nonnative creatures and plants can upset natural ecosystems in many ways. Some out-compete native species for food and shelter. Others disturb habitats, making it more difficult for other creatures to find food or to reproduce.

The state has seen plenty of recent examples of nonnative animals. Few, however, have established themselves as steadily as the Eurasian collared-dove, an aggressive bird that has spread from Florida across much of the United States and, since reaching Minnesota in 1999, has been found in 25 counties.

"Down in some of the southern areas that have been invaded, I think they displaced native doves,'' Rendall said. "Up here, it's still unknown.''

States such as Florida and Virginia, meanwhile, have highly publicized problems with such creatures. Pythons, for example, are becoming more abundant in the Everglades, and northern snakehead fish, a voracious predator that can wriggle on land for short distances, have become established in the Potomac River.

There was a time when state officials could do little more than shrug or offer advice that someone else might contradict.

But a national campaign called Habitattitude was launched last year, targeting aquarists and water gardeners. The program aims to convince people that, instead of releasing creatures and plants into lakes and rivers, there are better options, such as returning them to stores, trading them to other enthusiasts or donating them.

The program, whose Web site is http://www.habitattitude.net is a joint effort of the pet industry and government agencies, both state and federal. Rendall helped develop it and plans to sign up his agency as a partner.

"The idea was to develop some common recommendations as alternatives to releasing unwanted plants or animals into the wild,'' Rendall said.

 

Copyright 2005, St. Paul Pioneer Press.

http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/13427734.htm

 

 
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Farmer wipes out black-tailed prairie dogs

 

December 19, 2005

 

No author provided at originating website address/URL.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Minneapolis, Minnesota

http://www.startribune.com

To submit a Letter to the Editor: opinion@startribune.com

 

Mankato, Minnesota - The black-tailed prairie dogs Harvey Brooks discovered at his farm near Mankato were exterminated.

The rodents were tearing up his horse pasture, and when he contacted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources about it, he learned that prairie dogs aren't protected by Minnesota law.

Prairie dogs aren't even native to Minnesota, so it relieved DNR officials to know that Brooks might have put out at least one invasive species. But the prairie dogs are an example of a growing problem in Minnesota and elsewhere: Animals are being released in places they don't belong.

"This is one of the pathways that, in the past, has not received a lot of attention,'' said Jay Rendall, DNR invasive species program coordinator. "More and more species are showing up in the wild.

Releasing nonnative species is illegal in Minnesota and can disrupt the natural ecosystem. They can kill off native species and are often a nuisance.

"I had to do something, or the horses would have broken their legs,'' Brooks said of the prairie dogs.

They were probably caught in the wild somewhere else and released near Brooks' farm.

In the past few years, it's been illegal to buy, sell or trade prairie dogs in the United States because of an outbreak of monkeypox.

A lone prairie dog was also found near Holland on the Minnesota-South Dakota border. Officials aren't concerned about that one, because it likely ended up in the state on its own.

 

Copyright 2005, Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

http://www.startribune.com/stories/462/5790527.html

 

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Farmer's prairie dogs show growing invasion of nonnative species

 

December 18, 2005

 

No author provided at originating website address/URL.

West Central Tribune

Willmar, Minnesota

320-235-1150

Fax: 320-235-6769

http://www.wctrib.com

To submit a Letter to the Editor: letters@wctrib.com

 

Mankato, Minnesota - The black-tailed prairie dogs Harvey Brooks discovered at his farm near Mankato were exterminated.

The rodents were tearing up his horse pasture, and when he contacted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources about it, he learned that prairie dogs aren't protected by Minnesota law.

Prairie dogs aren't even native to Minnesota, so it relieved DNR officials to know that Brooks might have put out at least one invasive species. But the prairie dogs are an example of a growing problem in Minnesota and elsewhere: Animals are being released in places they don't belong.

"This is one of the pathways that, in the past, has not received a lot of attention," said Jay Rendall, DNR invasive species program coordinator. "More and more species are showing up in the wild.

Releasing nonnative species is illegal in Minnesota and can disrupt the natural ecosystem. They can kill off native species and are often a nuisance.

"I had to do something, or the horses would have broken their legs," Brooks said of the prairie dogs.

They were probably caught in the wild somewhere else and released near Brooks' farm.

In the past few years, it's been illegal to buy, sell or trade prairie dogs in the United States because of an outbreak of monkeypox.

A lone prairie dog was also found near Holland on the Minnesota-South Dakota border. Officials aren't concerned about that one, because it likely ended up in the state on its own.

"People are somewhat concerned they can spread, but I kind of doubt they can," said Joel Anderson, a DNR wildlife manager in the Nicollet area. "We don't have that much of their kind of habitat."

Prairie dogs do well in short prairie grasses, and DNR officials didn't know if they would have survived if Brooks had left them alone.

Other nonnative animals have appeared in different areas in the state in recent years. Perhaps the best established is the Eurasian collared-dove, a bird that has spread from Florida across many states. It's now been found in 25 Minnesota counties.

"Down in some of the southern areas that have been invaded, I think they displaced native doves," Rendall said.

 

On the Net: http://www.habitattitude.net

 

Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com

 

http://www.wctrib.com/ap/index.cfm?page=view&id=D8EISNJO0

 

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Farmer's prairie dogs show growing invasion of nonnative species

 

December 18, 2005

 

No author provided at originating website address/URL.

 

Associated Press

Duluth News Tribune

Duluth, Minnesota

http://www.duluthsuperior.com

To submit a Letter to the Editor: letters@duluthnews.com

 

The black-tailed prairie dogs Harvey Brooks discovered at his farm near Mankato were exterminated.

The rodents were tearing up his horse pasture, and when he contacted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) about it, he learned that prairie dogs aren't protected by Minnesota law.

Prairie dogs aren't even native to Minnesota, so it relieved DNR officials to know that Brooks might have put out at least one invasive species.

But the prairie dogs are an example of a growing problem in Minnesota and elsewhere: Animals are being released in places they don't belong.

"This is one of the pathways that, in the past, has not received a lot of attention," said Jay Rendall, DNR invasive species program coordinator. "More and more species are showing up in the wild.

Releasing nonnative species is illegal in Minnesota and can disrupt the natural ecosystem. They can kill off native species and are often a nuisance.

"I had to do something, or the horses would have broken their legs," Brooks said of the prairie dogs.

They were probably caught in the wild somewhere else and released near Brooks' farm.

In the past few years, it's been illegal to buy, sell or trade prairie dogs in the United States because of an outbreak of monkeypox.

A lone prairie dog was also found near Holland on the Minnesota-South Dakota border. Officials aren't concerned about that one, because it likely ended up in the state on its own.

"People are somewhat concerned they can spread, but I kind of doubt they can," said Joel Anderson, a DNR wildlife manager in the Nicollet area. "We don't have that much of their kind of habitat."

Prairie dogs do well in short prairie grasses, and DNR officials didn't know if they would have survived if Brooks had left them alone.

Other nonnative animals have appeared in different areas in the state in recent years. Perhaps the best established is the Eurasian collared-dove, a bird that has spread from Florida across many states. It's now been found in 25 Minnesota counties.

"Down in some of the southern areas that have been invaded, I think they displaced native doves," Rendall said.

 

Copyright 2005, Duluth News Tribune.

http://www.duluthsuperior.com/mld/duluthsuperior/news/politics/13436898.htm

 

=====

 

Farmer decides prairie dogs don't belong in the gopher state - Non-native species create a growing problem in Minnesota and across the nation

 

 

December 18, 2005

 

By Dennis Lien dlien@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5588

 
St. Paul Pioneer Press
 
St. Paul, Minnesota
 
 
To submit a Letter to the Editor: letters@pioneerpress.com

 

It was the infestation that never was. One Minnesota horse farmer saw to that. Faced with 20 newly released black-tailed prairie dogs digging up his horse pasture near Mankato, Harvey Brooks made a business decision. He poisoned them, filled in the burrows and kept the pasture safe for his horses.

In the process, Brooks took care of a quandary that state wildlife officials otherwise would have faced this winter: Because prairie dogs aren't native to Minnesota, they would have had to figure out what to do with them.

He also highlighted a growing problem in Minnesota and across the nation: People who release non-native birds, animals or reptiles, including pets, into the wild. Letting them go in Minnesota, even accidentally, is illegal and often ends badly, with the creatures competing with native species or unable to survive the harsh climate.

In just the past year, several ornamental carp, a Caiman crocodile, and South American catfish and pacu have been found in or near state waters. In addition, Eurasian collared-doves, which have spread across the nation since being released three decades ago in the Bahamas, are making deeper inroads into the state.

"This is one of the pathways that, in the past, has not received a lot of attention," said Jay Rendall, coordinator of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' invasive species program. "More and more species are showing up in the wild."

For the first time, DNR officials have found prairie dogs in the state: one solitary prairie dog near Holland in southwestern Minnesota and the colony observed northeast of Mankato.

Authorities aren't concerned about the one near Holland. It's not far from its nearest natural range in South Dakota and likely got here on its own.

But the ones in Brooks' field were different. DNR agents weren't sure whether the animals, which thrive in short prairie grasses and avoid tall grasses where predators can hide, would have flourished if they had survived.

"People are somewhat concerned they can spread, but I kind of doubt they can," said Joel Anderson, the DNR's Nicollet area wildlife manager. "We don't have that much of their kind of habitat. There's not a whole lot of prairie around here. It's more corn and soybeans."

Brooks, who owns Meadowbrook Stables and has40 horses that use the pasture, had no interest in being a good host. After showing the prairie dogs to a DNR assistant in August, he said the agent told him he could kill the animals, which aren't protected by state law. So he did.

Neither Brooks nor the DNR knows exactly how the prairie dogs got there, but Brooks said a relative told him that someone live-trapped 20 prairie dogs in Montana this summer, brought them back to Minnesota and tried unsuccessfully to sell them to an area pet store.

Because of an outbreak of monkeypox, a rare viral disease, it has been illegal to buy, sell or trade prairie dogs in the United States since 2003.

Ryan Blakley, owner of Walter's World of Pets in Lubbock, Texas, said he once sold a lot of the sociable animals as pets.

"They are one of the best pet rodents you can get," Blakley said.

When he couldn't get a pet store to buy them, Brooks said, the man released the animals near his pasture, where he said they took over gopher holes and made them larger.

He hasn't seen any more prairie dogs since he poisoned them late last summer.

"I had to do something or the horses would have broken their legs," Brooks said.

Non-native creatures and plants can upset natural ecosystems in many ways. Some out-compete native species for food and shelter. Others disturb habitats, making it more difficult for other creatures to find food or to reproduce.

 

Copyright 2005, Duluth News Tribune.

http://www.duluthsuperior.com/mld/duluthsuperior/news/local/13435544.htm