Prairie dogs are sick with the plague, prompting Denver to close a far northeast open space park

It’s just a precaution for now.
2 min. read
Prairie dogs do their thing at Denver’s First Creek Open Space, which connects to the First Creek Natural Playground via trails, in Denver’s DIA neighborhood. Aug. 1, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

On Thursday, Denver Parks and Recreation closed First Creek at DEN Open Space, a 198-acre park next to Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, where the plague has ravaged prairie dog colonies.

Yes, this is the same plagued that ravaged human colonies in Europe, killing millions in the Middle Ages. No, it’s not as serious now because of modern antibiotics — but without prompt treatment, it can cause serious illness and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The disease has not spread to the open space, as far as biologists know. Parks and Rec specialists are monitoring the situation, said Parks and Rec spokeswoman Cyndi Karvaski. In the mean time, the open space is closed “out of an abundance of caution,” she said.

First Creek at DEN is not the same as First Creek Park, the city’s newest natural playground in Green Valley Ranch, which remains open. This section of nature is owned by Denver International Airport but managed by Parks and Rec as the city’s largest wild open space. It sits between the Rocky Mountain Arsenal refuge and Peña Boulevard, north of 56th Avenue on Buckley Road.

Humans can contract the plague by getting bitten by a rodent or a flea, or simply by handling a prairie dog or another infected animal. Dogs can carry fleas to their adoptive human parents, so experts recommend keeping them out of areas frequented by prairie dogs.

On a lighter note, some people call prairie dogs “flickertails.” FYI.

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