MIDLAND, TX (KWES) - A colony of prairie dogs have taken up residence near Lamesa Road and Loop 250, burrowing dozens of holes and interfering with the city's Independence Day plans.
"We'll be using this area as a parking lot for the 4th of July, so we just want to keep the holes to a minimum," said Eric Johnson, a City of Midland transportation official. "With hundreds of people parking here and walking through the field in the dark [after July 4th festivities], we don't want to risk someone stepping into a hole and twisting their ankle."
He said workers are using an oxygen-powered device to temporarily scare the animals off. The plan is to make sure all holes and connecting tunnels are vacated before crews begin filling them in.
"We use a machine that's actually meant to do harm to the prairie dogs, but because of the ground and how it's so hard, it's not collapsing the tunnels," said Johnson. "It's just stunning them and having them run to another place."
However, nearby residents claim the displacement process is playing out more like an extermination.
"They're causing explosions in the holes and killing the prairie dogs," insisted a woman who observed city workers from her backyard.
She requested to remain anonymous, but added she felt "disgusted" by the city's "lack of compassion."
Lindsey Sterling Krank, director of the Humane Society's Prairie Dog Coalition, also called for better treatment of the squeaky rodents.
"The fact is, these practices are cruel and inhumane," Krank told NewsWest 9. "I think I can speak for most Americans when I say we don't appreciate our taxpayer dollars being spent this way on our native wildlife."
According to Krank, the decline of the prairie dog population directly impacts at least nine other species. Forcing a colony to find a new home, she explained, could be just as detrimental to the ecosystem as exterminating them. Krank described the use of oxygen-powered devices in prairie dog burrows as "awful."