BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – One university’s plans to remove prairie dogs from its campus is drawing sharp criticism. The fact it’s a Buddhist-inspired school only adds to the controversy.
Naropa University in Boulder has been trying to resolve the prairie dog issue on its east campus at 63rd Street and Arapahoe Avenue.
The university says it’s counted 250 prairie dog burrows on its campus. School officials say they’ve spent four years trying to find a new home for the animals. While the city and county of Boulder has set aside 2,000 acres of prairie dog habitat, both say it’s full.
Naropa says it had no choice but to apply for a permit to kill the colony on its campus hoping it would raise awareness. It definitely got peoples’ attention.
Killing prairie dogs in peace-loving Boulder is always a touchy subject.
“The first precept of Buddhism is to not harm another living being,” Deanna Meyer with Wildlands Defense said.
Meyer is leading the charge to save the prairie dogs and insists the county has land where the animals can be relocated even though the county says it doesn’t.
“They’re not going to open up lands unless you really push them to do so, and that hasn’t been done,” Meyer said.
“Naropa has done more than any other landowner that we know of in the state of Colorado to secure a viable relocation. We’ve spent four years, we’ve spent nearly $100,000 for identifying a relocation site,” said Bill Rigler, Director of University Relations.
Rigler says the university has been unfairly demonized. He says it bought the land long before the prairie dogs moved in to expand with its student population projected to grow 50 percent in the next five years.
“It’s not us displacing the prairie dogs, it’s that we have been displaced by the prairie dogs,” Rigler said.
“It is absolutely, totally against all of the concepts of Buddhism,” Meyer said.
Based on a petition Meyer gave Naropa, the vast majority of support for not killing the animals is from outside Boulder, and even outside Colorado.
“While we really appreciate the insights from our friends who are not from Boulder, these complaints sound a little bit like Donald Trump telling the pope to be more Catholic,” Rigler said.
The head of the Prairie Dog Coalition in Boulder told CBS4’s Shaun Boyd they’ve been working with Naropa for years and believes the university has good intentions.
The university hasn’t decided if it will use the permit even if it’s granted. It has offered to pay the full cost of relocating the colony at an estimated price of $100,000.