Cynomys ludovicianusBlack-tailed Prairie Dog


  • Sciuridae


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


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


  • Great Plains from Canada to Northern Mexico


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


  • 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.


  1. CITES Appendices. Accessed December 2012.
  2. IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. Accessed December 2012.

Prairie Dogs