by Ardeth Baxter
Prairie dog Baby Girl cannot live in the wild.
Susan Hubby loves prairie dogs. A Clovis resident, she first became involved with black-tailed prairie dog rescue last year after a local church destroyed a colony she visited regularly, using butane pumped into the burrows. She was horrified that anyone could do such a thing to harmless creatures and turned activist virtually overnight. “I educated myself about the real facts about prairie dogs, their habits, their lifestyle, etc. I drove around and saw what conditions they live in, where they were, and became involved in trying to rescue and save these wonderful creatures from the poisoning and eradication they suffer. I talk to those who will listen and educate those who are ignorant,“ she explains.
Since that life-changing experience, Susan has been involved in eight rescues in Clovis and Texas, working with veteran prairie dog rescuer Joann Haddock, president of Citizens for Prairie Dogs. Her current project involves relocating prairie dogs in Abilene, Texas to environmentally friendly ranches in the area with the cooperation of the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Susan learned about prairie dog rescue from the ground up, so to speak. Sometimes working as many as thirteen hours a day, she is involved in all aspects of the processfrom flushing burrows, capturing, flushing eyes with saline, feeding, and releasing, to surveying the relocated animals post-release.
But it’s not easy being a prairie dog advocate in a town like Clovis, where ranching and farming predominate. Susan has to fight local myths about prairie dogs, many of them handed down from generation to generation. These myths often lead to ranchers regarding prairie dogs as their enemies and eradicating them. They use both legal and illegal methods, but all of them are cruel. She says the biggest misconception is that prairie dogs destroy grassland, although most of the destruction is actually due to drought and cattle overgrazing. Another is that prairie dogs multiply rapidly, when in fact urban development causes prairie dog colonies to be isolated in fragmented areas and gives the false impression of their being ubiquitous. Susan believes prairie dogs are a vital part of the natural environment and it would be tragic if future generations can only see what prairie dogs and other wildlife look like in books. Her greatest wish is that “more Clovis residents realize the importance of protecting our ecosystem in this area.”
Originally from Louisiana, Susan has lived in New Mexico and the Midwest most of her life. She moved to Clovis with her now deceased husband Jack in 1985, where she ran a floral shop until family obligations forced her to close the business. These days, besides prairie dog rescue, which keeps her busy most weekends until the onset of winter, she raises her granddaughter Kaitlyn and cares for a houseful of pets. Most of them are rescuestwo dogs, Mandy and Molly, as well as seven cats, Sweet Pea, Tooter, Binky, Callie Mae, Teddy, Mini Me, and Kit Kat. She also has two prairie dogs, Baby Girl and Lynus, rescued from owners who could not care for them properly. Accustomed to humans and not able to fend for themselves, they can never be returned to the wild.
Susan stresses that she is adamantly against the prairie dog pet trade. She points out that it is now illegal to obtain prairie dogs as pets, and that they often die at the hands of ignorant owners. In her rescue work, if a baby with special needs is captured, they take it to the vet for treatment, but human contact is kept to a minimum. “The idea is to keep these guys free and wild, safe from poisons and other negative things we humans do.”
Susan’s family generally supports her work, but her friends are divided about her dedication to prairie dogs. Some think she should do more “important” work like community projects, but one friend in particular, Patsy Baumgartner, stands out as a devoted supporter.
A life-long animal person, Susan has given doghouses to dogs without shelter and taken injured animals she’s found to the vet. She has also rehabilitated birds and released them back to the wild. She supports the Clovis Animal Welfare League and belongs to the ASPCA and Citizens for Prairie Dogs.
Susan says she developed her feeling of connection to animals with a little help from her father. “I give my Dad the credit for showing me how to be kind and protective of all God’s creatures. It is our responsibility as stewards of the land to take care of and protect all wildlife and domesticated animals. I know my Dad is watching over me and I hope he is proud of the few contributions I have made.”
If you would like to make a donation to Citizens for Prairie Dogs or contact Susan about her work, write to 1301 East 10th St., Clovis, New Mexico 88101.
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