Eugene Weekly, February 28, 1999
by James Barnes
“Explode them dogs!” That’s the slogan of the Varmint Militia, a group of people who like to kill little animals, particularly prairie dogs, just to watch them die. These unpleasant specimens of manhood are featured in Doug Hawes-Davis’ new feature documentary film about the ongoing extermination of prairie dogs from the Great Plains. Varmints will be screened at 4 pm Friday march 5, at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the UO in Gilbert Hall, Room 133.
In VARMINTS, you too get to watch prairie dogs die - over and over. Varmint hunters like to make them flip and fly apart, and government agents like to feed them poisoned grain and fumigate their burrows. But the greater part of the film is taken up with interviews in which you hear, unvarnished, the poisoned ideologies of folks who believe it is right and proper to eliminate these animals - and have fun while doing it! You also see interviews with many conscientious biologists, conservationists and wildlife officials who describe prairie dogs as one of the American plains’ most important native species.
Prairie dogs are considered a keystone species of the prairie ecosystem. They create habitat for animals and encourage high levels of diversity and health in plant species around their towns, attracting deer, antelope, bison and even cows. But prairie dogs are in trouble.
Since extermination efforts began in earnest, there has been a 98 percent reduction in the black-tailed prairie dog population. Dogs inhabit only one to two million acres currently and are losing 80,000 acres a year from their range. Yet prairie dog control is still publicly funded, by you, the taxpayer.