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Know the West

The prairie dog deserves its day

  Dear HCN,

I was astounded to read Bob Hartley's letter, which seems to declare that the issue of prairie dogs is not "of true significance to citizens of the U.S. West" (HCN, 9/13/99). Where has he been living?

I greatly appreciated your article, as many communities which I have lived in over the past couple of years have been involved in raging debates around the prairie dog. You put forth one of the most objective articles I have seen to date on the issue.

In response to Mr. Hartley, I would like to point out that the prairie dog is the spotted owl of the Plains regions in the West. Many people, as well as many other species, are affected, both economically and otherwise, by what happens to the prairie dog. Many isolated towns survive mostly on the influx of visitors associated with prairie dog shooters and many ranchers believe their livestock threatened by competition with prairie dogs. Yet many biologists believe that the loss of prairie dogs, or even a further reduction, will result in the loss of habitat that ranchers need for their livestock and that the wildlife depends on. What is happening to prairie dogs is anything but moot to citizens of the West.

Miranda Terwilliger

Arcata, California