On the steps of Utah’s state capitol yesterday, The HSUS celebrated a 12-year-old who is out to win protections and rebuild public support for a favorite animal. Luke Zitting was recognized as a Humane Hero for standing up for one of the little guys in the animal kingdom, the prairie dog.
Prairie Dog Coalition
Luke, right, presents to Rep. Cosgrove a
resolution to create a Prairie Dog Day.
Luke has worked diligently to spread the word about the plight of the prairie dog, taking his case to his local city council and, most recently, authoring a Utah state resolution, H.R. 21, sponsored by Rep. Tim Cosgrove, which promotes prairie dog protection and asks the legislature to designate Feb. 2, 2011 as Prairie Dog Day—a Western version of Groundhog Day.
Over the last 100 years, due to poisoning, shooting, exotic disease, and loss of habitat, prairie dog populations have plummeted by almost 95 percent. The recognizable animals now occupy just a tiny fraction of their original range. A keystone species, the prairie dog has declined so much that other animals are also now in danger. The diet of the black-footed ferret, for example—North America’s most endangered mammal—consists almost exclusively of prairie dogs. Ferruginous hawks and burrowing owls are also directly linked to prairie dogs and many other animals—foxes, badgers, hawks, eagles and owls—depend on the prairie dog for food or rely on their burrows for shelter.
For years now The HSUS has been offering training, funding and general support of efforts to protect prairie dogs—promoting nonlethal methods of control, advocating peaceful coexistence, and working to end those shameful prairie dog killing contests. This fall, we expanded our efforts with the addition of the Colorado-based Prairie Dog Coalition as an HSUS program. With the Prairie Dog Coalition on board, we look forward to accomplishing greater achievements together—before it’s too late.
One of our first priorities will be to end the registration of Rozol and Kaput, deadly, slow-killing rodenticides that have just been reintroduced into our western states. We’re also developing a non-lethal prairie dog management program to demonstrate in the field successful ways to manage prairie dog populations without poisons. If you have a particular interest in the welfare of prairie dogs, we’d appreciate your support of this new HSUS program. And if you’d like to celebrate Prairie Dog Day in your home town in 2011, please let us know.