Crosses cover empty prairie dog colony in Parker

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The extermination of a prairie dog colony and sudden appearance of white crosses on their empty burrows has Parker residents — and even one of the property owners — wondering what happened.

Parkerites driving or walking by the northeast corner of Mainstreet and Twenty Mile Road have observed hundreds of crosses, which are made out of tongue-depressors and have messages of “RIP Prairie Dog” written on them. Resident have also noticed the conspicuous absence of the prairie dog families that scurried around the vacant land as recently as August.

Megan Foster, a Parker resident for five years, called town officials after seeing that the prairie dog colony had been “wiped out.” She drives past the site nearly every day while taking her teenage son to Railbender Park up the street.

“We’re wondering as a community what happened to that little prairie dog village,” said Foster, who first saw the crosses two weeks ago. “We sit and watch them when we’re at the light. They had babies out there in the spring.”

Elise Penington, spokeswoman for the Town of Parker, said the community development department does not regulate the elimination of prairie dogs on private property, and that no violations were committed because the species is not protected.

A Brunswick Zone bowling alley was proposed for land nearby in 2007, but those plans were put on indefinite hold the following year when the economy bottomed out. There are no pending requests or imminent plans for development on the corner, Penington said.

Even one of the lot owners, Parker-based McCabe Holdings LLC, is unsure why the prairie dogs vanished. Jerry Sturgess, one of the principals of the holding company, said no one asked their permission to exterminate, and he is unsure who placed the crosses on the land.

“We weren’t involved with it and I don’t know why the prairie dogs are gone, but I’m interested in finding out,” he said.

Sturgess, who said the crosses will “probably” be removed, confirmed that there are no immediate plans to develop the land, but said there has been talk about possibly putting a few lots up for sale. The company has regular meetings with adjacent property owners to discuss proposals and possible sales.

“I would have expected if it was one of them, they would have talked to us,” Sturgess said. “They see us enough that they wouldn’t have an excuse for not talking to us.”

Phone numbers for the owners of lots 33, 36 and 37 — identified in public property records as Jacksonville, Fla.-based The Main and 20 Center and Brunswick Zone XL Colorado Springs LLC — were not listed.

Foster pointed out that there also are no signs of prairie dogs on the large lot immediately south of the AMC Twenty Mile 10 movie theater.

“Why were they killed if they haven’t even sold the property?” she said.

McCabe Holdings LLC did not learn about the extermination or the crosses until Town of Parker representatives called them last week. Sturgess stopped by to take photos and make sure there were no “baits” or traps. He’s hoping someone can tell him why activities have taken place on the land without consent.

No one has taken responsibility for the crosses. It is unclear when they were placed at the site or when the prairie dogs vanished.

Those with tips about what happened to the colony or the crosses should send an email to cmichlewicz@ourcoloradonews.com.

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