Residents voice concerns for prairie dogs, city leaders ask for compromise

Local News

“I’m devastated with what’s been happening.”

“It’s just my hope that we keep them.”

Wichita Falls Parks employees have been working to put in a new enclosure which is one way to keep the prairie dogs at Kiwanis Park at bay, but on Tuesday, after several weeks of conversation between Wichita Falls City Officials and the public, some residents voiced their concerns. 

“I wanted to begin by thanking the city for expanding and updating the prairie dog habitat,” Wichita Falls Resident Jennifer Sansing said.

Five people signed up to address city councilors all with different concerns.

“I can clearly see the need to relocate and reduce the population to a more sustainable number,” Sansing said.

City officials are glad the public is weighing in.

“It’s nice to see that many people concerned about our parks and the things that are inside of our parks,” Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana said.

Santellana says while things are slowly moving the city is working on a plan to properly maintain the park’s prairie dogs.

“I think we have a timeline up until June past breeding season,” Santellana said. “So we are working on a plan.”

Santellana also says the city wants to be transparent with the public on the circumstances.

“We need that transparency if they want people such as myself on board with what they are doing,” Michael Comella, with the Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue, said.

Comella says he wants to work with the city to find the best solution. 

“What we are asking for is a no-kill, wild-to-wild relocation solution,” Comella said. “We don’t want them to flood their burrows with water to drown them or to use CO2 gas or any of the number of other things.”

Comella says he wants to build a concerned citizens committee to address officials and wants to be in talks with a few prairie dog relocators in an effort to help.

Santellana hopes everyone will work together as a community to find a middle ground soon.

“We want a bigger and better park but we have to realize that this thing is going to be a compromise,” Santellana said.

Santellana says city officials are hoping to have the prairie dogs contained by sometime early this summer, but in the meantime, they hope to have the new enclosure completed by the end of this week.

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