It was a cloudy morning on July 14th as Karen Carter drove to her work office in Centennial Colorado. While waiting to turn on a road near her job, she turned to look at a prairie colony in the adjacent field like she always did. She enjoyed watching their antics as they ran from burrow to burrow.
This morning was different. Much to her horror she saw the field being bulldozed and cleared while the animals were still there. She immediately parked and went to investigate. She found a few survivors including a mother prairie dog laying on top of two of her babies, apparently in hopes to protect them. Karen was unable to contain her tears.
Searching for Help
Understandably shaken, she started searching for people to help her. She called Prairie Protection Colorado and Prairie Dog Pals in New Mexico, both active prairie dog conservation groups. She was advised to find out who owned the land that was being developed and contact them. After a somewhat helpful visit to the Centennial Planning office and an internet search, she found Adam Hazlett, manager of Victory Investment Partners. She emailed him twice to no avail and then tried to call him and he answered the phone. She begged him to not kill anymore prairie dogs.
Adam told her that his construction team had assured him that the animals would just run away when the bulldozers went through the site. (Obviously this is not true, the animals are crushed or buried alive. ) He said that the front part of the lot wouldn’t be bulldozed for awhile so the animals would be safe for the time being. He didn’t say how long.
Relocation as the Goal
After some more advice from Prairie Protection Colorado, Karen decided that she would try to get the animals in the undeveloped lot relocated to a sanctuary. The first step to doing this is getting permission of the land owner, however Mr. Hazlett has been ignoring her requests for permission to relocate.
Every morning before work and in the afternoon afterwards she stands on the corner of Arapahoe Avenue & Blackhawk holding signs to build awareness on the issue. Some people stop to talk to her about it, others honk in agreement, but it’s just her out there and only so much can be done with one person.
She contacted the Centennial Newspaper hoping they would write a story, but no one responded to her request. She contacted the mayor of the town asking for a meeting. She was almost denied, but her perserverance scored a one hour meeting with the mayor next week.
The Reality of the Situation
The reality is that it is prohibitively difficult to relocate prairie dogs from a development site. (Check out the Prairie Dog Coalition guide to relocation) Relocation requires developer approval, a permit from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW), and a place to relocate them to that is approved by CPW and the surrounding neighbors of the property proposed for relocation. If the property is in a different county, this requires an additional permit from CPW. Also, there is the cost of actually relocating these animals once all the paperwork is in order. No wonder developers would rather bulldoze or euthanize… you don’t need a permit or to notify anyone. Developers should be able to do the right thing without having the headache of going through such a painful process.
Of major note, this problem isn’t just in Centennial Colorado, it is happening in all of the Front Range suburbs in Colorado. (Except in Longmont, Boulder & Fort Collins which encourage developers to look for non-lethal solutions)
Call to Action
- Help is needed now in Centennial. Karen could use some additional people to help her in the mornings with signs and supporting the cause in meetings. Doing this alone is exhausting, please consider assisting her in this! You can contact her through her instagram account @centennialcoloradoprairiedogs or her Youtube channel
Long Term Ways to Help
- Contact Southern Plains Land Trust and Prairie Protection Colorado for ways you can help them help prairie dogs and the Colorado Prairie Ecosystem.
- Contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife and request they create an easier, streamlined process to help these animals.