LAWTON-- Chances are you're either for it or against it. On Thursday, lots of Lawtonians let us and the city know how they feel about poisoning prairie dogs at Elmer Thomas Park. The city says there are just too many of the furry rodents at the park now, and something had to be done. But a lot of people we talked to believe killing the prairie dogs is cruel and inhumane.
It's really hard to tell if it's working yet. The city says the poison is designed to put the prairie dogs to sleep and they should die under ground. But we did see several dead on the park grounds. That sight was just too much for some people. "Little kids come out here to see the prairie dogs. This is the quote, prairie dog park," said one park visitor.
It's those kids who the city is most concerned about. "If you walk out there you will see thousands of holes in Elmer Thomas Park," said Lawton Mayor John Purcell. When a kid or an adult falls and breaks a leg or ankle in one of those holes, Purcell says it's going to be a big liability for the city. Some at the park disagree. "Most of the holes are pretty apparent. You can see them pretty well," said one man.
Despite the argument over the holes. Most people can agree the park's prairie dog population is out of control, but why kill them? "We've paid good money to people trying to remove them. We've had people vacuum them out, we've had people use water and soap and some water without soap to remove them," Purcell said. "The problem is, the amount they remove, they cannot remove them fast enough that they reproduce more than they removed."
"This is awful," said Sherry Bly, a Lawton resident who shared her concerns with us at the park. "Our city council and mayor should be ashamed of what they've done." Bly is upset that the city didn't notify people about their plan so she and others could propose alternatives. "This should have never happened. There is a much more humane way to take care of this problem than to just put poison out to kill everything."
"It's probably more inhumane to leave 10,000 prairie dogs in an area that can really support with food and everything (only) 1,000. That's probably not humane either," Purcell said. The mayor also told us a Colorado group also proposed moving the prairie dogs, but it was going to cost close to $200,000. He says the council decided against that option because of the cost and the likelihood that it wouldn't work.