Cynomys ludovicianusBlack-tailed Prairie Dog

Family

  • Sciuridae

Lifespan

  • Wild: 3 to 5 years
  • Captivity: 8 to 10 years

Size

  • Length: 12 to 17 inches
  • Weight: 1 ½ to 3 pounds

Origin

  • Great Plains from Canada to Northern Mexico

Diet

  • Wild: Herbs and grasses
  • Zoo: High-fiber alfalfa cubes, yams, carrots, and hay.

Reproduction

  • Litters consist of 1 to 6 pups.
  • The pups remain in the burrows until they are 5 to 6 weeks old.

Prairie Dog pups

Unique Characteristics

  • The name "prairie dog" comes from its call which sounds like the yap of a small dog.
    • They are actually closest to the squirrel in relations.
  • They live in large colonies called towns, which are composed of small family groups of up to 20 members called coteries.
    • They live in an elaborate system of burrows, where they seek shelter from predators and severe weather.

Special Adaptations

  • Prairie dogs communicate and strengthen their bonds through a series of vocalizations, playing, nuzzling, and grooming.
  • The family system helps them deal with predators more effectively too.
  • They will bite off tall plants around the burrows to see better.

Conservation Status

  • Humans have targeted this rodent with poison campaigns as agriculture and livestock ranching claims habitat previously used by the prairie dog.
  • The main threat, however, is the loss of habitat due to this agricultural expansion.
  • Prairie dogs are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Sources

  1. CITES Appendices. Accessed December 2012. www.cites.org
  2. IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. Accessed December 2012. www.iucnredlist.org

Prairie Dogs