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Animal Awareness Tip: Black-tailed Prairie Dogs

Maideline Sanchez

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It is not surprising to find a person’s home filled with guest rooms, but it’s unexpected to find that a small Prairie Dog only 12 to 15 inches long can actually incorporate many rooms with different purposes in their underground tunnels. For instance, Black-tailed Prairie Dogs build large towns that may cover less than half a square mile. These towns are divided into neighborhoods which are in turn divided into households owned by separate families. A family usually consists of one male and a few females along with children who greet each other by nuzzling or giving each other a quick kiss. Each burrow contains a nursery, bedrooms lined with dried grass, bathrooms which they clean periodically, and a listening room near the entrance which is filled with a mound of dirt to prevent floods inside the burrow and to keep a lookout for predators.

Black-tailed prairie dogs in the shadow of a buffalo.

Black-tailed prairie dogs in the shadow of a buffalo.

These Prairie Dogs live in plains throughout North America. They are considered one of the most abundant rodents and are listed as pests among farmers due to the fact that their main source of food is plants. Their lifespan is about 3.5 years and they produce 3-8 offspring at a time. Prairie Dogs are so named for the barking calls that they make when there is danger; each bark has a distinct sound depending on what predator is nearby. As soon as the call is heard, other Prairie Dogs immediately hide in their burrow.

Did you know? The largest reported population among Prairie Dogs was recorded in the 1900s, where a large town filled with 400 million of these rodents was found in Texas; they occupied over 158 square miles of land.

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The Student News Source of the University of New Haven
Animal Awareness Tip: Black-tailed Prairie Dogs