Donald Trump Jr. is in Montana campaigning for Republican Greg Gianforte, who hopes to beat Democrat Rob Quist in the May 25 election for the seat vacated by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
A prairie dog hunt is also on the agenda for the four-city tour for Donald Trump’s oldest son, and as Gianforte says:
“As good Montanans, we want to show good hospitality to people. What can be more fun than to spend an afternoon shooting the little rodents?”
From the Associated Press:
Prairie dog hunting is a way for landowners to control the population of the rodents, classified as ‘‘agricultural pests’’ because of the damage they can do to crops. They are also a nongame species, meaning there are no hunting limits or hunting seasons. Killing them is a popular pastime among some hunters who looking to keep their shooting skills sharp during the offseason when they can’t hunt wild animals like deer and elk.
However, prairie dogs are also listed as a species of concern by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks because their numbers have declined and because of threats like disease.
Their numbers haven’t declined to the point that protective measures must be taken so that they’re managed like other wildlife, though, agency spokesman Greg Lemon said.
‘‘They are a species of concern but also a species not in need of management,’’ he said.
The Humane Society of the United States condemned Trump’s hunting plans, saying prairie dogs are an important species for the Great Plains because more than 100 other animals depend on the prairie dog either as food or move into the burrows they dig, said Lindsey Sterling Krank, the organization’s director for its Prairie Dog Coalition.
Now is the time year when prairie dogs are still nursing their new offspring, meaning hunters who shoot lactating females are condemning the pups to starvation, Sterling Krank said.
‘‘I would love to take Donald Trump Jr. out with a spotting scope and shoot the prairie dog with our cameras,’’ Sterling Krank said. ‘‘Shooting a prairie dog colony is not a good conservation message.’’