LAWTON, Okla. (AP) -- The state has fined the city $2,350 over the poisoning of prairie dogs at a local park.
Lawton City Manager Larry Mitchell said the city will likely appeal the state Department of Agriculture fine over the February poisoning.
Mitchell contends the state agency has been aware of the city's practices regarding the prairie dog population at Elmer Thomas Park for years.
"One of the things we were cited for was not having a license to poison," Mitchell said. "But we do have someone (on the Lawton Parks and Recreation Department) staff licensed."
Agriculture Department spokesman Jack Carson said Mitchell is mistaken.
"No," Carson said, "we didn't know they were doing that. Not at all."
The issue became public when word leaked that city workers were dropping aluminum phosphide pellets into prairie dog holes. One group of people spent a day at the park protesting.
City workers defended their actions, explaining how they were directed by the city council to poison the rodents in order to prevent overpopulation.
Lawton Parks and Recreation Director Kim Shahan said the prairie dog population has doubled to an estimated 8,000 since 2002. The problem has since spread to neighboring Lawton High School, where prairie dogs are now burrowing into athletic fields.