Nebraska Panhandle officials: Prairie dogs a growing problem
SIDNEY, Neb. (AP) — Officials in Nebraska’s southern panhandle are asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture for help and are exploring other options to control what they say is an encroaching prairie dog problem in the region.
The Cheyenne County Board commissioners said Monday during a meeting that the animals are threatening to overrun the towns of Lodgepole, Sidney and Potter if more is not done to control their numbers, the Scottsbluff Star-Herald reported.
Commissioner Philip Sanders said the animals caused nearly $3,000 in damage last year to 2,600 acres in the county. The animals, he said, are already inside Lodgepole, a village of about 300 people.
“I’m willing to take any help that we can get at this point, because I feel like we’ve let Lodgepole down,” Sanders said. “We’re going to let other communities down. We can’t do this any longer.”
There is only one USDA wildlife specialist to help control animal populations — including coyotes, porcupines and raccoons. The county wants the USDA to hire additional staff, but the agency says there’s no money for it. Now, the county is looking at private-sector help and even volunteers from the community to help control the prairie dog population.
Prairie dogs are native to Nebraska and live in colonies that create vast underground tunnels. They are considered an important to the region’s ecological balance, but many view them as pests that destroy valuable grassland and pose a danger to cattle that can step in prairie dog holes and break legs.