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.

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