AR-News: (US) He's all over this underdog
info at animalconcerns.org
Mon Sep 15 13:16:21 EDT 2003
CORTEZ, Colo. -- On a lonesome alfalfa field in the shadow of the San Juan
Mountains, a little brown head pops up and swivels like a periscope in its
Not far away, Gay Balfour squints hard in the midday sun. "That's it!" he
exclaims, leaping into his boxy truck and gunning it down the field. The
head swiftly disappears.
Balfour maneuvers the tank-like vehicle around the burrow, unhooks a large
vacuum hose and jams it into the hole. He fiddles with a few knobs and
gauges, then pushes a button. The truck roars, spewing smoke and dirt into
"Probably dug to China by now!" Balfour yells over the din. Then comes a
thump, thump, thump. A prairie dog, sucked out of its home at speeds
approaching 60 mph, spins up the 5-inch-wide hose, banks off a foam wall
and slides into the back of the truck.
Balfour climbs in and examines the ruffled rodent. "He's a little miffed,
but he's fine," he says. "He's thinking: 'Now how did I get in here?' "
For the last 12 years, Balfour and his custom-made vacuum have rumbled
across the West, sucking up prairie dogs like so much lint from a
sprawling shag carpet.
Researchers believe there are roughly 18 million prairie dogs in 12
states, with Colorado having the largest population. Finding humane ways
to deal with them has been a growing concern for communities as people
encroach on their habitat.
Nevertheless, animal rights organizations have picketed Balfour,
threatened him and even slashed his tires. But he says 95% of the prairie
dogs he catches are unscathed.
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