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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, master bedrooms, dining areas, and an emergency exit just out the window with a latter dangling down to the first story of the building. But what is shocking is 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 at times greet each other by nuzzling or by 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 also keep a lookout for predators.

                Black-tailed Prairie Dogs live in Plains ranging from Southern Canada all the way through North America and into the northern part of Mexico. 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 although they sometimes eat insects. Their lifespan range to about 3 to 4 years and during these few years they may produce about 3 to 8 offspring at a time. Prairie Dogs are so named for the barking calls that they make when there is danger and what is interesting is that each bark has a distinct sound depending on what predator is nearby whether it is an owl or a badger. 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 1900’s where a large town consisted of 400 million of these rodents found in Texas. The Prairie Dogs  occupied about 100 by 250 miles of land.


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