Defenders in Action: Defenders Seeks to Curb Wildlife Poisoning

Prairie Dogs, © Krista Schlyer /

© Krista Schlyer /

A new poison is on the menu in Great Plains states, where ranchers claim that burrowing, grass-eating prairie dogs degrade pasture land.

It's hard to imagine anything more cruel. Rozol, a new chemical approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to kill prairie dogs, causes them to slowly bleed to death. It can take weeks. What's worse is that while the mammal languishes, its disorientation and loss of function makes it easy prey. The result: The chemical is inadvertently poisoning prairie-dog predators such as endangered black-footed ferrets, bald and golden eagles and ferruginous hawks.

To put an end to this misguided attempt at prairie dog eradication, Defenders of Wildlife is suing the EPA for allowing Rozol to be used in 10 states in violation of numerous federal laws and without consulting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The EPA is also currently considering approving a similar chemical to kill prairie dogs, called Kaput-D.

"These chemicals are nasty stuff," says Jason Rylander, an attorney with Defenders. "The best available science shows that they're inappropriate because of the impacts on threatened and endangered animals. It's unacceptable that the EPA is expanding their use, violating federal wildlife laws and ignoring all reasonable requests from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife agencies to limit the use of these poisons. The bottom line is that Rozol and Kaput-D need tighter regulation."

For years, EPA has failed to properly follow the Endangered Species Act, which requires them to consult with federal wildlife managers on the effects of pesticides on endangered and threatened species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has repeatedly made EPA aware of their concerns that these poisons could kill black-footed ferrets and other protected mammals and birds. In September, the service formally requested that EPA revoke the pesticides' registrations. The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, representing 23 western states, has also asked EPA not to approve these pesticides without further environmental review.

Rozol is approved for use to kill prairie dogs in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. The EPA is considering allowing Kaput-D to be used to kill prairie dogs in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming.

Find out more about Defenders' conservation work on behalf of prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets.

More Articles from Winter 2010

In Alaska's war on predators, politics trumps science
Offshore wind power is a promising clean energy source, but can it be made safe for birds?
As the planet warms, protecting rivers in the arid Southwest becomes even more crucial
Once every three years, representatives gather from the 175 nations that have signed on to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Once every three years, representatives gather from the 175 nations that have signed on to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
In the back room, endangered pangolins—scaly, armored mammals native to Southeast Asia and parts of Africa—were being "processed." The armadillo-like animals were skinned; their valuable scales removed; organs, blood and fetuses separated out; and the remaining meat boiled.
Along Highway 160 in southwestern Colorado, the movement of deer and elk mark the changing seasons.
Dwelling high in western mountains, American pikas bear little resemblance to their closest cousin—the rabbit.
The canine carnage continued in the northern Rockies this fall: As this issue went to press, more than 180 wolves had been killed in Montana and Idaho, eight of them just outside the border of Yellowstone National Park.
[T]hose who also care about the survival of the greatest wild cats, dogs and wolves of the world hope that The Great Cats and Rare Canids Act will pass in the Senate in 2010.
After being hunted to near extinction about a century ago, sea otters have struggled to recover—facing threats such as oil spills, fishing gear entrapment, food supply shortages and diseases.
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