Hello, Saw an interesting story on the news this morning. They are having more rat sightings in New York City and Chicago than normal.
They have determined that the rat population is much too high.
Now these are pretty much the same people that have determined that the prairie dog population is too low. There was an article saying how North Dakota was flunking in prairie dog reclamation. I have been to Chicago. I have been to New York City. From my observation, their problem is too many people. Not too many rats.
And along these same lines, I listened to a “scientist” the other day who had been studying rats, er, excuse me, prairie dogs. She found that prairie dogs will only compete with cattle for about four percent of the forage. I think she had her head stuck in a prairie dogs hole! (You can take that any way you want.)
I have studied prairie dog towns. I have observed them from close up and far away. I have studied them with the naked eye and through a Weaver scope. And in my observations, if you attempt to control the population of prairie dogs by shooting, you will go insane. For every one you are lucky enough to shoot, two more stand up and bark.
And I can guarantee you, prairie dogs eat more than four percent of the forage. They eat it all. If you have a pasture with a large town in it, the grass will be gone before a cow can put her head down in the spring.
Shirley has been fighting a losing battle against these pests. Smoke bombs, legal poisons, illegal poisons … you name it, she tried it. Even Double Bubble chewing gum. We heard that if you put gum out, the varmints will eat it and it will expand in their stomach and they will die a slow painful death. I think I heard that in a bar. From a gum salesman. Shirley tried it. The next day we went out to check. The prairie dogs were sitting on their mounds reading the little cartoons and blowing bubbles. Actually, it was kind of cute.
I am coming up with a new plan. A good one. You’ve heard of CRP. The Conservation Reserve Program. Where the government pays you to seed grass and set aside highly erodible land. It’s a good plan, unless you have good land or are a seed salesman or run an elevator.
I am proposing the PDP. That’s right. The Prairie Dog Plan. You get paid for raising this vanishing species of adorable creatures. The government, or the Sierra Club, or the Wildlife Federation would foot the bill. You just determine what the highest rate of return is for CRP and extend that to dog towns. And since you have to keep the habitat around the dog town relatively short, so they have room to expand, you continue to graze your cattle. Maybe even get paid for it. And you just keep doubling your acreage every year. Without having to reseed it. The dogs do that through a natural process called breeding.
I can just hear it in the coffee shop or bar now. “Hey Jake, how’s your prairie dogs doing?”
“Oh, just fair. Don’t seem to be expanding like they should. Only added another section this spring.”
“Well, it’s been pretty wet. Probably gonna be a problem with diseases.”
“We had a touch of pneumonia in the little ones this spring. Spent ten thousand dollars on vaccine. Had a hell of a time gathering them all. Little buggers are hard to corral.”
“Boy, you tellin’ me. We had one young male must have got run out of the herd last month. Caught him running down the road towards Dickinson. Got out in Harold’s corn and we must have run over 60 acres getting him in.”
“Sixty acres of corn! Was he mad?”
“He was a little skittish till we gave him a little grass in a box. Harold was mite upset though!”
Dean Meyer is a former state legislator and currently ranches in southwest North Dakota. He has been a featured columnist around the state for years
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