Prairie Species Safer From Poisons

When prairie dogs are poisoned with Rozol—an extremely dangerous pesticide—it’s not just the prairie dogs that perish. So do countless other species that rely on prairie dogs for food and shelter.

Black-footed ferrets rely on large prairie dog colonies for food and shelter.

Black-footed ferrets can only survive where there are enough prairie dogs for them to feast on. Burrowing owls use prairie dogs holes to escape from hungry predators. Badgers, golden eagles, swift foxes and dozens of other species benefit from having healthy prairie dog colonies around.

That’s why Rozol is so pernicious. The dust is left behind in prairie dog burrows where it can kill any number of species. But it doesn’t stop there. Rozol is toxic enough to kill any subsequent animal that feeds on the poisoned carcass as long as it persists in the environment.

Fortunately, thanks to the ongoing efforts of Defenders’ legal team, imperiled prairie species in six states will be safer this fall.

Last summer, the DC Circuit court sided with Defenders and put a temporary ban on the use of Rozol in four states. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed to revisit the impacts of Rozol on threatened and endangered species across 10 states.

As a result of that agreement, EPA announced new conservation measures last week that will limit the use of Rozol in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming. These measures include:

  • Prohibiting the use of Rozol in black-footed ferret reintroduction areas
  • Prohibiting the use of Rozol in southwestern New Mexico to protect jaguars, Mexican gray wolves, and other species
  • Shortening the Rozol application season where prairie dog range overlaps with grizzly bears and Preble’s meadow jumping mouse
  • Amending Rozol label to require enhanced searches to remove poisoned prairie dogs before other animals feed on them

Defenders is still concerned that some of these measures don’t go far enough. So far, EPA has posted the new measures on their Bulletins Live! website, but there’s no guarantee that pesticide users will actually implement them. Further, EPA is likely to allow Rozol to be used again in areas not covered by the new conservation measures. Even if Rozol were banned completely, there are still other dangerous poisons on the market that can be substituted, some of which have dire impacts for non-target species.

But overall, the changes made by EPA are a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, Defenders will continue working to get rid of other pesticides that are harmful to imperiled wildlife.

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