County signs predator control contract

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Red Willow County commissioners signed a one-year contract Monday morning with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for predator control in the county until June 30, 2007.

Wildlife specialist Ryan Arrington of Hayes Center and his supervisor, Paul Kokes of Ogallala, explained the new contract, for which the county will pay $5,809, during the commissioners' regular weekly meeting.

The five counties that Arrington covers -- Red Willow, Hayes, Chase, Frontier and Dundy -- share 40 percent of the cost of providing wildlife predator services, and the remaining 60 percent paid by the federal government.

Kokes said the wildlife specialist's main objective is to assist farmers and ranchers with predator problems like coyotes and prairie dogs, although he is also available to help with wildlife problems -- such as skunks, opossums or raccoons -- within city and village limits.

Kokes asked, however, for city dwellers' patience when the loss of calves and lambs due to coyotes and the destruction of land by prairie dogs become the trapper's most urgent concern.

Kokes said the prime time to eradicate prairie dogs hasn't started yet, as poisoned oats cannot be used before July 1.

"With a lot of green grass now, you can't get the dogs to eat the oats anyway," Kokes said. They will take the bait, however, once pastures start drying up because of a lack of rain, he said.

Kokes said the specialist can work in conjunction with landowners who are conducting their own efforts to eradicate prairie dog populations. He encouraged landowners to level the prairie dog mounds after they've finished shooting and/or poisoning.

If there's an empty motel, they'll move right in, Kokes said about prairie dogs, explaining that they will move up to 15 miles to inhabit new digs.

Landowners are charged for the chemicals/grains used, not for labor, Arrington said.

Commission Chairman Earl McNutt said lots of people in Red Willow County take advantage of the specialist's services, justifying the county's continuation in the USDA program.

Arrington said he has a long, long list of people requesting help. "I get new prairie dog calls every night," Arrington said.

McNutt said that, unlike Arrington's immediate predecessor, Arrington has been busy. "We're seeing him around," McNutt said, obviously pleased that the county is and will be getting its money's worth.

Commissioner Leigh Hoyt asked for monthly reports of services provided and landowners' requests. Fellow commissioner Steve Downer said these updates will also keep Arrington's name and services in the public's mind.

Contact Arrington at (308) 285-3754 or (308) 340-6460.

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