Prairie dogs escape predatory status By KATHLEEN MILLER Associated Press writerPra CHEYENNE -- Prairie dogs dug their way out of being classified as predatory animals by the House Agriculture Committee Thursday. The committee approved a measure that would make it a crime to dump prairie dogs onto property without the consent of the landowner, but stripped the bill of language that would reclassify the prairie dog as a "predatory animal." "Believe it or not, this was the number one issue when I was running for office," said Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle, who sponsored the legislation. Rep. Amy Edmonds, R-Cheyenne, agreed with Teeters. "In my district, they are just out of control," Edmonds said. "We're losing the battle." Teeters said he wanted prairie dogs to join coyotes, raccoons, skunks and stray cats in the predatory animal classification to take them out of any "management scheme." Prairie dogs currently are classified as pests by the state. Wyoming Department of Agriculture Director John Etchepare said the state agriculture board was not in favor of the reclassification. "It is the feeling of the board that this could raise a red flag and hasten the speed with which efforts are made to get the prairie dog listed" as endangered or threatened species, he said. Sierra Club lobbyist Adam Rissien agreed. He said if the prairie dog was classified as a predatory animal, it would mean the state would no longer be able to say it was managing the species through regulatory mechanisms. Rissien said his organization would seize the opportunity to gain endangered species status for prairie dogs. "It would help us petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife for listing the species under the Endangered Species Act," Rissien said. Rissien's testimony led Teeters and the committee to strike the portions of the bill that would reclassify the prairie dog as predatory. "What Mr. Rissien said raised the hackles on the back of my neck," Teeters said. The committee voted 8-1 to pass the bill -- without the language that would have classified prairie dogs as predators, but including language that would make it a misdemeanor to relocate prairie dogs into or within Wyoming without the consent of the landowner and all adjoining landowners within one mile of the relocation site. The bill now moves to the House floor for consideration. Prairie dogs face still face another threat in Wyoming: the annual "There Goes the Neighborhood" prairie dog killing contest on public lands around Medicine Bow in Carbon County.