That’s all true, but the fact is, prairie dogs are unique, because they used to be very popular as exotic pets everywhere around the world, until 2003, when a pair of unfortunate prairie dogs contracted monkey pox from a Gambian rat they were paired with for shipment.
The prairie dogs went to a pet store in the Midwest and some people got sick from contact.
The CDC immediately stepped in and put a freeze on the movement of all species of prairie dogs world-wide, which forever changed the prairie dog pet trade. Most say for the better, because they are captured in the wild, rarely bred in captivity, have unique dietary needs and ultimately would be better off if they could remain in the wild.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons prairie dog pets became such a huge and lucrative business, with prices as high as $800 per prairie dog in Japan, was due to more than a century of persecution at the hands of humans. They were designated as “vermin” in the mid 1800’s to allow millions of them to be poisoned and shot to make way for agriculture and other development.
Ms. Williams has written about the plight of prairie dogs for over 15 years. She recently launched the conservation outreach program, Keystone Prairie Dogs (www.keystone-
In addition, there are a series of inexpensive eBooks available on the website that are a combination of funny pictures of prairie dog characters in satirical situations that range from the politically absurd to eyebrow-raising social commentary—and educational information from wildlife experts, along with a resource guide.
The concept of the eBook series is simple: If people would only realize how much prairie dog families are like their own—facing the same daily dilemmas of work and play, dealing with dysfunctional relatives, marveling at the stupidity of politicians and just trying to survive the day—they might be more tolerant and stop shooting, poisoning, bulldozing, blowing-up and nuking the poor little critters so much.
Okay, maybe “nuking” is a little strong, but only because it is one of the few prairie dog extermination techniques the government doesn’t approve.
The fact is, prairie dogs are one of the most important ecological species on the Great Plains, but they are also one of the most reviled and misunderstood species on Earth.
The eBook series (http://keystone-
Don’t have an eBook reader? Free download options are available at all online retailers, like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, so they can be read on your home or office computer.
You can get more information on how to preview and buy the humorous, conservation-
Jean Williams, Environmental journalist, Author and Artistic Director,