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NRA & Wildlife Advocates Poised for Battle before Wildlife Commission
Grand Junction, CO. WildEarth Guardians is running a large ad in today's Grand Junction Daily Sentinel with a photo of a prairie dog in crosshairs, which reads "Shoot Pop Cans, not Prairie Dogs" and urges concerned citizens to contact the Colorado Wildlife Commission to demand an end to high body count wildlife shoots.
At its meeting in Grand Junction tomorrow, the Commission will consider whether or not to allow shooters to use live animals for target practice. While relatively few engage in prairie dog shoots, one person can kill several hundred animals in a day. Internet sites advertise shooting tours and celebrate when prairie dog bodies explode into "red mist." The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW), however, is siding with prairie dog shooters, saying that prairie dogs cause damage to rangeland and must be controlled.
"We are amazed that the state's wildlife agency is siding with an extreme fringe that derive a perverted pleasure from exploding wildlife," said Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians.
In January, WildEarth Guardians requested that the Wildlife Commission ban the practice of shooting live animals as targets. "Prairie dog shooters are not hunters but are simply in it for target practice or sadistic amusement. But for the DOW's mischaracterization of this practice as hunting it would be animal cruelty under state law," said Jay Tutchton, General Counsel for WildEarth Guardians.
While citizens' petitions normally go through a three-step process, in an unusual move, the DOW posted a rulemaking notice that states that the Commission had the right to stop the process at the second hearing. "The agency is apparently trying to end the process early because they find examination of prairie dog shooters' behavior embarrassing and are pandering to the lowest common denominator," said Tutchton.
The National Rifle Association and Colorado Trappers' Association have been mobilizing their members against a ban on prairie dog shooting. They have accused WildEarth Guardians of trying to ban all hunting through this petition. But the Colorado Wildlife Federation, a local hunting group, testified at the March hearing that these kinds of shoots raise alarming issues, particularly that prairie dog shoots do not allow for fair chase, a major tenet of ethical hunting.
"The opposition's argument that we are trying to ban all hunting makes no sense, as prairie dog shooting is not hunting. In fact, ethical hunters disagree with the practice, given that it lacks any iota of sportsmanship. In short, prairie dogs are not pop cans," said Rosmarino.
In addition to discussing how prairie dog shooting is not hunting, WildEarth Guardians' petition documents the decline of prairie dogs, their importance to a variety of wildlife, and the danger of environmental contamination from lead shot-especially to raptor populations such as hawks and eagles.
The DOW is expected to testify in support of prairie dog shooting at Thursday's hearing, echoing arguments from prairie dog shooters that prairie dogs harm rangeland. But WildEarth Guardians says the science shows that prairie dogs are good for Colorado's environment and do not cause harm to ranching.
"Not only have a myriad of biologists documented that that prairie dogs have evolved over millions of years in the American West and are in fact a crucial force in maintaining healthy grasslands, but they are alarmed at the enormous decline in their populations across the West," said Dr. Rosmarino.
The public can submit comments on the petition to ban prairie dog shooting by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org For more background information, please contact Nicole Rosmarino at email@example.com or 505-699-7404.
Contacts: Nicole J. Rosmarino | WildEarth Guardians | 505.699.7404 Jay Tutchton | Denver University Environmental Law Clinic | 720.301.3843