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Prairie dogs


Scientific Name:  Cynomys ludovicianus      

Range: Central & Western North America

Habitat: Prairies and open grasslands

Diet: Herbivores: Plants, seeds, and roots

Life Span: 5-10 yrs

Description:  Head and body, 12 to 15 in); tail, 3 to 4 in; Weight: 2 to 4 lbs. These animals are rodents, not canines. They get the name DOG from the yelps, barks, and whines that they make. They communicate with loud cries. They have unique calls for danger. A warning cry, for example, will send a town's denizens hustling to their holes at the approach of a badger, coyote, or other predator. A second, "all-clear" call alerts the community when the danger has passed. They are typically diurnal species.

Family Life: Family groups are typically composed of a male, a few females, and their young 9pups). They inhabit underground burrows and cooperate to share food, chase off other prairie dogs/predators, and groom one another. Group members will greet one another with a “prairie dog kiss” or nuzzle. Black-tailed prairie dogs, the best known of the five prairie dog species, live in larger communities called towns, which may contain many hundreds of animals. Typically they cover less than half a square mile. All species hibernate in winter and burn the reserves of fat they have stored during more plentiful seasons. White-tails may hibernate for up to six months on their mountain plains, while their black-tailed cousins sometimes emerge to feed on especially warm days.

Status/Wild:  Humans pose the greatest threat to prairie dogs, frequently poisoning and shooting the animals and often plowing or bulldozing entire colonies for cropland or development. Many ranchers dislike the animals because they eat grass that ranchers would rather have for their livestock. Sylvatic plague—an exotic disease that entered North America in 1900—is also threatening their survival.During the 20th century, about 98 percent of all prairie dogs were exterminated, and their range has shrunk to perhaps five percent of its historic spread.

Nature Notes: Prairie dogs live in extensive underground burrows. They are made up of tunnels and chambers marked by many mounds of packed earth at their surface entrances. Burrows have defined nurseries, sleeping quarters, and even toilets. They also feature listening posts near exits, so that they can safely keep tabs on the movements of predators outside. Prairie dogs spend a lot of time building and rebuilding these dwellings. Other animals benefit from their labors. Burrows may be shared by snakes, the tiger salamander, burrowing owls, and even rare black-footed ferrets, which hunt prairie dogs in their own dwellings   

Personal History: all 4 of our Prairie Dogs arrived in May of 2012


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