Poisoned plains


When Kaput-D enters a rodent's bloodstream, it causes the animal to bleed through several orifices. In a matter of weeks, the rodent might bleed through its skin, becoming weaker and more susceptible to predators.

Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity submitted official comments to the Environmental Protection Agency against the pending approval of the poison, which they believe could severely affect ecosystems. While the poison is meant to target the black-tailed prairie dog, other species -- gold and bald eagles, black-footed ferrets, whooping cranes and others -- could pick up the poison if they eat the dead rodents.

“This is like kicking someone when they’re already down,” said Justin Augustine of the Center for Biological Diversity in a press release. “Less than a year ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the black-tailed prairie dog may need to be protected under the Endangered Species Act because of already approved poisons that are killing the species. EPA should be withdrawing prairie dog poisons from the market in order to protect this imperiled species, and instead they’re considering allowing more."

 The protections offered to non-target species are insufficient, agreed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Director for Fisheries and Habitat Conservation Bryan Arroyo in a letter to EPA. Furthermore, he wrote, there haven't been enough realistic cost-benefit studies on the poison.

Kaput-D's label would instruct people not to use the anticoagulant in places where non-target species could be harmed, but such areas might be difficult to avoid because the black-tailed prairie dog inhabits about 2.4 million acres in the Western United States.

Rural communities in the West aren't always receptive to the furry, little rodents. The prairie dogs mow down grass that ranchers would rather see going into their cows and chew through fence posts and phone lines (check out Mark Matthews' 1999 feature story "Standing up for the underdog").

But does that merit slowly bleeding to death?

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