Praire Dogs Settling In at Carlsbad Zoo

CARLSBAD -- With their little colony dwindling away -- there were just three of the original residents left -- the Prairie Dog Village at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park was ready to receive the immigrants.

There are 24 of the new rodents, and they arrived here in October, said Holly Payne, head curator at the Living Desert.

They were relocated by a Lorenzo, Texas, group called Citizens for Prairie Dogs, after they were removed from the campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

Before they could go on exhibit in Carlsbad, the burrowing creatures had to make it over several hurdles.

The N.M. Game and Fish Department asked the relocators to quarantine the animals and treat them for fleas before trying to enter New Mexico with them.

Then the prairie dogs did the 30-day quarantine required in New Mexico.

Payne said the little colony includes all ages, but on Thursday afternoon, there were just two adults braving the chilly weather in the concrete-enclosed village. The rest of the little diggers were nowhere to be seen.

When a colony must be relocated to save members from poison, bull-dozing or other forms of eradication, the relocation group tries to round up every prairie dog there, but that's not always possible, they say. That's why they try to educate humans about prairie dogs and about how we can co-exist with them. For more about Citizens for Prairie Dogs, go online to

Payne said the rodent area isn't the only part of the zoo to receive new residents.

A new barn owl is already on exhibition in the aviary. And a female roadrunner is nearing the end of her quarantine so she can join the resident male in the native bird habitat.And then there is the reptile house, being constructed at a cost of $1.25 million. Just across the path from the former reptile facility, it is nearing completion in perhaps a few months, Payne said.

Story by Marth Mauritson/Current Argus

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