Nebraska prairie dogs rescued after university land sale

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CRETE, Neb. (AP) - Volunteers have rescued about 230 prairie dogs under threat after a Nebraska university sold its research lab land to farmers who planned to dispose of the animal colony.

Doane University sold its 320-acre (130-hectare) Fillmore County property to soybean farmers in April. Conservationists and animal lovers had criticized the sale of the Aldrich Prairie Research Site for endangering the prairie dog colony.

The university donated $20,000 to the colony's relocation efforts. Two conservation groups and about 30 volunteers trapped and relocated the prairie dogs to Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary near Bassett last month.

Nebraska Wildlife Rehab will keep about 50 prairie dogs at its Fort Calhoun facility until August. The nonprofit's executive director Laura Stastny says prairie dogs are often seen as a nuisance, but are key to prairie ecosystems.