By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver
(Aurora, Colo.) Aurora’s prairie dogs are not out of the woods yet.
Despite the City Council giving initial approval during a study session last week for an ordinance to protect prairie dogs, the body did not vote on the law during its regular meeting Monday.
Council member Juan Marcano, one of the sponsors of the bill, said the legislation must go to Planning and Zoning next. "Staff forgot that was the next step and advertised it incorrectly," he told NewsBreak in an email. "It's still in the works."
Marcano and council member Crystal Murillo have worked several months on the ordinance.Women who relocated prairie dogs from the land where City Hall is now located pleaded with the council to pass the ordinance as soon as possible. Ellen Belef praised the bill’s sponsors for including that prairie dogs are not to be poisoned but exterminated humanely when land for relocation is not available. She said some of the poisons make the prairie dogs “bleed from all orifices” adding, “It’s a long painful death, nothing deserves that kind of suffering.”
One resident who said she has lived in Center Point since 1979 said she remembers seeing herds of antelope near her home and lots of prairie dogs. Another speaker said she is 14 years old and hopes her children get to enjoy prairie dogs someday.
Prairie dogs would be relocated
The ordinance would require developers to relocate prairie dogs when land is available. Non-profits would do the relocation work. “This is the first time that the city has come up with an ordinance that in any way honors the value of this keystone species,” a resident told the council. “It is at least a start in establishing the value of these animals upon which many other animals depend on for their existence.”
Deanna Meyer of Prairie Protection said the law would alleviate some of the animals’ suffering by no longer using dangerous poisons. Meyer said many incorrect statements have been made about prairie dogs during Aurora’s debate on the issue.
Developers donate to council members
Meyer said prairie dogs are a keystone species “and we can’t have healthy low-grass prairies without them.” Meyer and others who spoke Monday accused the council of being beholden to developers who make contributions to their campaigns.
Several members of the council have said they want to make sure the prairie dog relocation ordinance doesn’t hold up developments. “Ethical developers have no problem with this ordinance,” Meyer said.
Since last year, Aurora residents have been lobbying the City Council to protect the prairie dogs.