Containment Hasn't Proven Completely Effective
Officials at Vance Brand Airport (LMO) in Longmont, CO have a
vexing problem: their efforts to contain the resident prairie dog
population have proven unsuccessful, and may endanger the airport's
hopes for receiving new state grant money for improvements.
The Longmont Times-Call reports airport personnel fenced off
about five acres of airport land back in 1998, to serve as a refuge
of sorts for the indigenous rodents. Since that time, city workers
have attempted to capture or kill any animals that managed to
escape... with middling success.
State Airports Engineer T.K. Gwin inspected LMO last week, after
receiving complaints from pilots about prairie dogs and burrows
near airport operations areas. "We don't think airports and prairie
dogs go together," he said.
Gwin confirmed the presence of rogue prairie dogs on the
field... and until Longmont has a handle on the problem, Gwin is
recommending the Colorado Department of Transportation hold off as
much as $250,000 in annual airport grants to the facility.
Similar in size to rats, prairie dogs themselves pose negligible
risk to moving aircraft... but the primary concern stems from the
large, deep burrows they live in. Should an aircraft depart the
runway surface, a burrow easily could trap a plane's nosewheel,
leading to bigger problems.
Pilots are also concerned the rodents attract predators...
including large birds like eagles and hawks.
"In my experience, most airports remove the prairie dogs if
there's a problem, and exterminate any that remain," he said.
"Longmont is the only place we've run into that tries to contain
Airport manager Tim Barth concedes a problem exists, but says
the city had the best of intentions when it originally tried to
relocate, not eliminate, the prairie dog population around LMO.
"Of course, relocation doesn't mean that 100 percent of the
population is relocated," Barth added. "Some may view this as
completely successful while others may perceive this as only
For now, a new barrier fence around the prairie dog area is to
be completed by the end of April. Once the fence is up, a
contractor will be hired to exterminate any stragglers.