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PRAIRIE DOGS SUCKED UP FROM HOME ON THE RANGE TO BECOME PETS IN JAPAN

Using a vacuum truck to suck prairie dogs from their holes, a pest control company is making a profitable roundup of the burrowing rodents that are highly prized pets in Japan.

"These little guys are worth $700 apiece," said Gay Balfour, a co-owner of the company Dog Gone and inventor of the special vacuum.Workers captured three to four dozen prairie dogs Tuesday using the vacuum, which noisily pulls the animals through a wide hose and into an enclosure. The vacuum pulls up lighter animals, leaving heavier adults alone.

"We're just taking the young ones," said company co-owner Dave Honaker. "They make good pets - they're real trainable and social animals."

The Cortez, Colo., company has been capturing the squirrel-like rodents, which grow to about a foot long, for five years. The latest roundup is already in its fourth week.

An exotic pet dealer who made a deal with an Amarillo landowner is marketing the prairie dogs, sucked from a 320-acre tract near this Texas Panhandle city.