Larimer County Commissioners voted to euthanize around 250 prairie dogs on Tuesday as they prepare to break ground on a new county building.
Voters were promised a new county office building in 2013 to replace an "undersized" one built in the '60s. It's slated to sit in the heart of Loveland at First Street and Denver Avenue.
Before breaking ground, commissioners made the decision about the prairie dogs after months of discussion.
"Larimer County is going to humanely trap and euthanize [them]," Larimer County Commissioner Tom Donnelly said.
The commissioners say they want this carried out in the next few weeks before mating season to keep it as humane as possible.
When some members of the community realized what the county was planning, they reached out to the Prairie Dog Coalition, a group that works to protect the animals.
"There are nine other animal species that rely directly on prairie dogs for survival," Noel Guersey with the coalition said.
But the debate over finding them a new home is still not settled in Loveland.
"Larimer County has plenty of suitable habitat for prairie dog, but they unwilling to accommodate this colony," Guersey said.
Donnelly, however, says no viable options for moving the dogs were presented during their conversations.
"I think the coalition wasn’t able to find a suitable location to take them," Donnelly said.
Donnelly said relocating is complicated, since different colonies of prairie dogs can't be kept on the same land because they will fight. There would also already have to be burrows for them to survive.
Guersey said they are fully aware of what prairie dogs need to survive and there are options within Larimer County to do so, adding there are laws that stop them from transporting the prairie dogs across county lines.
As of now, the plan is to donate the prairie dogs to a local program that rehabilitates raptors like owls and hawks. The donation would be made after the rodents have been euthanized.
An arrangement, the program said, is typical for them.
"We would have liked to see Larimer County to show responsible stewardship of their land and wildlife," Guersey said.
"We hoped for a different solution. We worked diligently with advocates to find that kind of solutions," Donnelly said. "Unfortunately we are up against a pretty tight window."
Two out of the three commissioners were at Tuesday night's meetings and both voted to euthanize the prairie dogs. The third commissioner was out of town.
Donnelly said they are still open to exploring new homes for the prairie dogs over the next few weeks.
Trapping and euthanizing would cost around $16,000 in tax payer money. Relocating them would cost around $20,000.