Prairie Dogs, a species of marmot-like rodents of the plains, genus Cynamys, especially Cynamys ludoviciamus. They are about one foot long and live in communities known as prairie dog towns in the higher or drier parts of the plains. The burrows are often 10 or more feet deep and have hillocks at the entrance. They live on vegetation and while part of the community are foraging others are placed as sentinels on the hills to give warning in case of approaching danger. Gopher, a corruption of the French "Gaufre," meaning honey-comb, is the name applied to a smaller species of the same animal, because they honey-comb the earth with their burrows. In the early days these animals were kept in check by wolves, snakes and birds of prey, but with the advance of civilization their natural enemies were destroyed and they increased so rapidly in numbers that they became a formidable pest. Not only did they destroy growing crops by burrowing through the ground, but their burrows made pitfalls for all kinds of live stock. Prairie dogs and gophers became such a menace to property that the matter of their extermination engaged the attention of the United States department of agriculture and of the Kansas legislature. Several bills were passed offering bounties for the heads of gophers and prairie dogs (see Bounties). One act provided that ten resident land owners of a township could petition the board of county commissioners to have an official appointed to exterminate the pests on land where the owner refuses to do so, and to have the cost of extermination charged against the land in taxes. The legislature of 1901 authorized township auditing boards to purchase material and to employ one or more suitable persons to destroy prairie dogs and gophers, not more than $100 to be used in any one township in a year. The board of regents of the Kansas Agricultural College was authorized to select a competent person to direct and conduct experiments for determining the most effective methods of extermination, and $5,000 was appropriated for this purpose. On account of the extreme caution of the animals in question it was very hard to catch or shoot them and one of the effective methods so far discovered for destroying them has been suffocation with bisulphide of carbon placed upon absorbent balls and rolled into the burrows. By the act of March 12, 1909, the township trustees were authorized to make diligent efforts to exterminate these pests; to report to the county commissioners before the annual meeting in August of each year as to the probable expense, and the commissioners were authorized to levy a tax on real estate in each township not to exceed 70 cents on each $100 valuation. As a result of these measures the prairie dog and the gopher are rapidly disappearing.Pages 494-495 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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