The ‘True Measure of a Society’
by Dan Chancellor
Jul 08, 2010 | 526 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print

In a local commentary, an apparently misinformed person advocated for the extermination of the Valley Floor prairie dogs based on a fear of a bubonic plague epidemic. In an effort to vanquish her fears and the fears of others, it is important to set the record straight.

The 300 million people of the United States averaged about a dozen cases of bubonic plague a year over the past eight decades. Of those most were not connected to prairie dogs and only 1 in 7 were fatal. Through automobile accidents, thousands of Americans are killed and injured by deer and elk each year. Yet, most people would be horrified at the suggestion of poisoning the deer and elk populations to address this much greater threat. To eliminate the animals capable of carrying plague infected fleas, virtually all mammals, including cats, dogs and humans, would need to be exterminated. It is sad to imagine what a stark and sullen world it would be if mankind succeeded in eliminating all the animals that offended our sensibilities or caused us inconvenience.

The true measure of a society is the way it treats the least among them. How will we define our society as it deals with a true underdog, the prairie dog. There are numerous benefits to be harvested from a humane management plan. Telluride will certainly improve our status among important communities, like animal lovers and conservationists. This could translate into increased tourist revenue. Over time a broader eco-system will develop around this keystone species that is known to directly benefit over 140 other species. Through research, much can be learned from the most sophisticated non-human communication system known to date. Scientists have already identified over 100 words in the prairie dog vocabulary. As these maliciously stereotyped ground squirrels vanish, many tourists, fascinated by the playful entertainers, will consider a chance to view them as an added bonus to their stay and maybe as another reason to return. Through the efforts of many, these unique creatures have found a home on the Valley Floor. The time has come to allow them a place where they can live in a wildlife community, free of harassment as nature intended.

– Dan Chancellor, Placerville
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