WASHINGTON (CN) – The Environmental Protection Agency illegally approved two prairie dog poisons that will wreak environmental havoc up and down the food chain, two environmental groups say in Federal Court. The critically endangered black-footed ferret, which feeds mainly on prairie dogs, will suffer greatly, the groups say, along with birds of prey such as eagles, falcons and the nearly extinct American burying beetle.
Defenders of Wildlife and Kansas Audubon say the prairie dog baits Rozol and Kaput-D, which contain anti-coagulants chlorophacinone and diphacinone, cause black-tailed prairie dogs a long and unpleasant death by bleeding.
The EPA failed to provide a comment period for Rozol approval, nor did it publish a notice in the Federal Register or consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service over effects to threatened and endangered species, the groups say.
The Fish and Wildlife Service urged the agency to reject the rodenticides due to their impact on wildlife, the lawsuit claims.
The chemicals work over a period of one to two weeks, making prairie dogs disoriented and weak as they slowly bleed to death. Bald or golden eagles may suffer secondary toxicity from feeding on animals weakened by the poison.
Such secondary poisoning has already been documented, the groups say.
The groups say that the black-footed prairie dog itself is subject to a preliminary finding under the Endangered Species Act.
The EPA approved Rozol for use in 11 Western states at the end of May, while Kaput-D is authorized in five states.
Defenders of Wildlife and Kansas Audubon want the approval vacated, and the EPA ordered to consult with other agencies about its adverse environmental effects.
Black-tailed prairie dogs have long been subject to government and private eradication efforts. Livestock ranchers say that colonies cause leg-breaking hazards to cattle and horses, and compete for forage.
The animals are also particularly susceptible to plague, which can wipe out entire colonies. Black-tailed prairie dogs are gone from about 98 percent of their historic range, which included the Great Plains and desert Southwest.