Pound for pound the prairie dog has generated more controversy in the West than almost any other animal. Some say that the prairie dog competes directly with cattle for forage and is an agricultural pest that must be eradicated. Others argue that the prairie dog is an essential component of the prairie ecosystem and that dramatic declines in population and loss of habitat qualify the prairie dog for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

VARMINTS chronicles the decline of the prairie dog in the American West. It details the intertwined and conflicting perspectives of cowboy mythology, animal rights, property rights, varmint hunting, ecology and politics. The film includes exclusive footage of varmint shooting, spectacular wildlife of the Great Plains, and systematic poisoning efforts by federal, state and local agencies, including historical U.S. Biological Survey footage (c. 1915) collected from the National Archives.

VARMINTS raises important questions about the ethics of hunting for sport and our relentless efforts to control the natural world.

'A powerful, engaging, and surprisingly humorous expose of the strained relations between people and wildlife in the American West...sure to echo across the West for years to come.' Camas Deep Winter

'Fascinating story-telling, scientifically and historically accurate...Is this film a polemic? Well, it certainly has attitude. But all strongly held ideas have attitude.' Sam McNaughton, PhD, Biology Research Lab, Syracuse University

'An incredibly disturbing film, but well worth watching...Highly recommended for all college and university library collections.' Pamela M. Rose, Health Sciences Library, SUNY at Buffalo, MC Journal

'Varmints is the 'Schindler's List' of wildlife documentaries. You simply cannot watch and remain unmoved. It demands intellectual attention.' The Coloradoan

'Gives valuable balance to contrasting perceptions and regarding evidence about a major issue in resource management. Both sides score good points.' Editor's Choice, Science Books and Films

'Using documented evidence and historical footage, Hawes-Davis deftly dissects those arguments (the ranchers' and sports shooters') until the only thing left standing is the blood lust of the shooters.' Ken Muir, Asst. Professor of Sociology, Appalachian State University

'In a deceptively simple, often darkly comic style, Hawes-Davis lets his diverse group of interviewees have their say... [Varmints] effectively captures the anger, ignorance, and passion surrounding the debate.' Les Benedict, Montana Magazine

'Makes viewers everywhere ponder who, in the grand scheme of things, the true varmints are.' Westword


Main credits

Hawes-Davis, Doug (film director)
Hawes-Davis, Doug (film producer)
Hawes-Davis, Doug (editor of moving image work)

Other credits

Camera & sound, Drury Gunn Carr.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Animal Behavior/Communication
Animal Rights
Endangered Species
Environmental Ethics
Great Plains
Life Science
Prairie Dogs
Social Change
Social Psychology
Western U.S.


black-tailed prairie dogs,; hunting, American West,; ecosystems, habitat, keystone species, burrowing owl, ferruginous hawk, livestock, interspecific competition, ; prairies, grasslands, Great Plains, Endangered Species Act,; US Biological Survey, poisoning, animal rights; "Varmints"; Bullfrog Films