PAROWAN, Utah—There are about 2,790 humans to defend their turf in this farming town. They are up against a foe with superior numbers: 3,435 Utah prairie dogs, give or take a few pups.
And the critters have the law on their side.
Prairie dogs—simply "dogs" among locals—have invaded yards and lots, pockmarking lawns and gardens all around town. They have tunneled into a cemetery in a nearby town. Another indignity: The dogs' disregard for the small Parowan Airport, where they have dug tunnels under the runway, buckling it.
Jim Carlton / The Wall Street Journal
Councilman Dennis Gaede shows prairie dog damage to an airport strip.
Officials like Dennis Gaede, a Parowan city councilman and former U.S. Marine, worry a plane will hit a hole while landing. Of the prairie dogs, he says: "We need to annihilate them."
Do that to prairie dogs here and you could go to jail. Elsewhere, they are so populous they can be legally shot on sight in many cases. But the ones here along the western edge of the Rocky Mountains aren't ordinary prairie dogs. They are Utah prairie dogs, a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Residents face penalties up to a year in prison and a $50,000 fine if they "harass, harm, pursue, hunt…" Utah dogs under the Act.
READ MORE >>>