Black-Tailed Prairie Dog

Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Cynomys ludovicianus

Type of Animal:

Grasslands, shortgrass prairie, mixed-grass prairie, mid-grass prairie, sagebrush steppe, plains, areas near rivers/creeks, benches/terraces adjacent to floodplains/creeks/rivers, flat areas, rolling hills, badlands, playa lake slopes/surrounding areas, areas near reservoirs, areas near cattle salting grounds, sagebrush grassland, cattle trail/road areas, areas near river flats, coulee bottomlands w/ sagebrush/greasewood/prickly pear, agricultural areas, sparsely vegetated shrub-short grassland areas dominated by western wheatgrass/blue grama/sagebrush, sand prairie, saltbush shrubland, desert, savanna

Canada: S Saskatchewan/S Alberta, US: Montana, Wyoming, Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, W Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona; Mexico: parts of Chihuahua/Sonora, Mexico.

Tan to light brown compact-bodied rodents w/ small ears, short black tipped tails, whitish/buff-white belly, broad head

Forbs, flowering plants, grasses, weeds, herbs, hay, flowers, vegetables, greens, leaves, shrubs, fruit, seeds, stems, roots, tender shoots, sedges, peanut butter, berries, insects, insect larvae, burrowing owl eggs/new hatchlings

Status in Wild:

Breeding in zoos & wildlife centers. Reintroductions into parts of range. Protection of important prairie dog habitat. Reduction in conflicts between prairie dogs and people.

Towns range from 400-100,000 members (larger towns sometimes called cities & one city in Texas had around 400 million prairie dogs covering around 25,000 sq mi). Towns divided into wards-wards have 2-10 coteries. Each coterie consists of 1-2 males (if more than 1 male, they’re related) & 1-18 females plus any offspring. Wards can range from 4-190 adults. 

Additional Info:

Male: Boar/Buck/Dog
Female: Sow/Bitch/Doe
Young: Pup
Group: Town/City/Colony/Coterie/Ward

Male: 1.87-3.69 lbs
Female: 1.55-2.31 lbs
Young: 2 oz

5 weeks

Life Span:
3-4 years in wild, 7-8 years in captivity

Male: 1.17-1.36 ft
Female: 1.15-1.23 ft

Body Length:
Male: 1.17-1.36 ft
Female: 1.15-1.23 ft

Tail Length:
3-4 in, same for both sexes

Fun Fact(s):
Main predators are mustelids, canids, felids, raptors, snakes, ravens, & bears. 

Each coterie fiercely defends territory of 1/2-1 acre in size (fights between neighbors sometimes result in death). Wards may range from 0.5-10 acres. Towns range from 24-10,000 acres.

Towns most recognizable by mounds/holes at burrow entrances. These holes/mounds are 1-3 ft in diameter. 7-15 ft deep burrows connected by tunnels consisting of many chambers. Tunnels 3-6 ft below surface, being about 15 ft long. Burrows often have 2 entrances. Burrows have defined nurseries/latrines/sleeping quarters.

Prairie dog towns/burrow systems don’t just support prairie dogs but also other small mammals, snakes, & ground-dwelling birds, among many others. 

While common, before the 1800s, there may have been over a billion prairie dogs. Populations plummeted in the 1800s & 1900s due to poisoning, persecution, & habitat alteration. Seen as pests since they feed on much of the same food livestock feed on & livestock can injure themselves if they step in prairie dog holes (especially broken legs).

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