By all accounts, it's unlikely the black-tailed prairie dog will receive the blessing of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for inclusion on the federal endangered species list.

To be sure, no one has said as much, but people who rub elbows with people who are close to the determination process aren't expecting it.

Officially, we won't know until the end of the month, but the die has been cast, so to speak.

Ironically, credit or blame -- depending on where you stand -- will be at the feet of the state agencies specifically responsible for the management of wildlife.

They were all virtually hellbent on showing that prairie dogs aplenty are surviving. Some even sought to show that the numbers are actually increasing.

Personally, I liken their numbers to voodoo economics -- smaller numbers mean an increase. It's the old saw of when no means yes.

Be that as it may, it's shocking that wildlife agencies -- nay, hunting agencies -- lead the charge to prevent the inclusion of prairie dogs on the federal endangered species list.

Over and over, it seems.

When the feds first determined that the animals were eligible, but precluded by other higher-priority animals, it was the state hunting agencies that led the charge to get the animal off the list.

So they started talking to one another, looking for ways to create numbers and show the feds that plenty of the "prairie rats" still existed.

That was in 1998, the same year the National Wildlife Federation petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put the animals on the endangered species list. FWS determined such a move was justified.

That same year, the 11 states in the prairie dog range formed the Interstate Black-tailed Prairie Dog Conservation Team. Note the word conservation, as it is the true meaning of an oxymoron.

Eventually, this group convinced the feds to back off the listing.

Then last year, the group ForestGuardians -- now Wildearth Guardians -- re-petitioned the feds for protection.

Again, the initial review found such a move might be justified.

All of a sudden, state hunting agencies forged ahead with fresh counts, even though they had already failed on their pledge to make regular counts, to show that such a listing isn't warranted because there's so many of them.

Perhaps so, but it's sure suspect to so quickly come up with surveys and big counts. Not too many, mind you, but enough to ensure it prevents a listing.

Perhaps they don't warrant listing. I'm not the expert here. But it's curious why these hunting agencies, financed by the public, rush to show there's no danger.

Shouldn't we leave the politics out of the true question: Do prairie dogs warrant endangered species protection?

In doing so, we have to look at Kansas' push to exterminate the critters, and the Legislature's free-for-all mandate against the animal.

The eastern half of Colorado, in fact, was just opened up for widespread poisoning.

If we wear blinders when we review a species, one day the facts might reach up and bite back, and then it might be too late.

It will be interesting, to say the least, what action the Kansas Department of Hunting and Fishing will take on the request to offer protection -- and end hunting -- to the lesser prairie chicken. It is, after all, one of the trophies for diehard hunters.

Will a group of hunters be able to just say no to hunting?

I have my doubts. Grave doubts.