Valmont Butte - Prairie Dog Information
Prairie dog removal began in November 2008 and was completed in December 2008.
In January and February 2006, tissue samples were collected from Valmont Butte prairie dogs and soil samples were taken from the area. The samples were tested to find out if the prairie dogs carried harmful levels of uranium, arsenic and lead from burrowing in and around the tailings ponds. The concern was that if relocated, the prairie dogs may create health problems in the food chain.
The levels found in the soil samples and in the soil buried externally in the prairie dog pelts were elevated, as anticipated. The city's tests of soil samples and radiation levels were consistent with the EPA's 2005 soil testing. However, the tests on internal prairie dog tissues (liver and muscle tissue) found that the levels of these substances were minimal within the prairie dogs themselves. The prairie dogs were deemed safe for the food chain, and the CDPHE has authorized their relocation off site if relocation sites are available.
Prior to removing the prairie dogs, the city will provide a public announcement of its removal plans and solicit information on potential relocation receiving sites. If members of the public have state-certified relocation sites to offer, they may submit information about the name, location and landowner during that waiting period. The city, however, welcomes and encourages input on potential receiving sites at any time and as early as possible to help avoid the potential future use of lethal control at the site.
In late 2008, approximately 200 to 250 prairie dogs were removed from the tailings ponds areas and a barrier to prevent their return was put in place. A Sept. 16, 2008 memo to City Council included information about this removal before it occurred.
The city is currently performing monthly checks of the prairie dog barriers to ensure that they are properly maintained. If prairie dogs do breach the barriers, then lethal controls are used to remove them in accordance with city ordinance and the prairie dog removal permit for the site.