“VARMINTS takes look at prairie dog controversy”
Bozeman Daily Chronicle, January 14, 1999
by Scott McMillion
With a title like Varmints, you might not expect this kind of movie: It’s graphic, it’s well photographed and it’s even pretty well balanced.
The movie, making its Bozeman premier tonight at the Emerson cultural Center, is about prairie dogs, a species that could soon find itself in the center of one of the most contentious land-use debates in the West.
There’s a good chance the species could gain federal protection as a threatened species in the next year or two, and all sides predict a legal and political fight.
People have been waging war on prairie dogs since the beginning of the century and Varmints tells you why. Ranchers and farmers believe the rodents cost them a lot of money, consuming forage they would rather turn into steaks and hamburgers.
The movie examines that belief and quotes people citing opposing studies. One man says it takes 300 prairie dogs to consume what a cow eats. Another man insists it takes only five prairie dogs. But the producers don’t tell us who either man is. Viewers are left to wonder: Which man knows what he’s talking about?
The movie explores all sides of the prairie dog controversy - poisoning, shooting, habitat conversion and the valuable role the dogs play in a prairie ecosystem.
There’s a lot of bloody footage of prairie dogs being exploded by high velocity, long-range bullets, and for that reason the producers recommend thinking twice about bringing children under 12 years of age.
VARMINTS, produced by Missoula-based High Plains Films, appears at 7 pm at the Emerson. Admission is $4.