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Black-tailed Prairie Dog- Cynomys ludovicianus

Characteristics
Range
Habitat
Diet
Life Cycle
Behavior

 Classification

 Phylum: Chordata
 Class: Mammalia
 Order: Rodentia
 Family: Sciuridae
 Genus: Cynomys



Black-tailed Prairie Dog
ICUN Redlist - World Status: Least Concern Least Concern  
  Characteristics
Black-tailed Prairie DogThe black-tailed prairie dog is a member of the squirrel family and is closely related to the ground squirrel. It has yellowish to reddish brown fur on its back and sides and lighter colored fur under its neck and on its chest. It has small ears on the sides of its head; a long body; small front paws with long claws; and a short, black-tipped tail.

  Range
mapThe black-tailed prairie dog's historic range stretched from extreme southern Saskatchewan in Canada and Montana south through the western and central Great Plains to the desert grasslands of western Texas, New Mexico, southeastern Arizona and northeastern Sonora, and northern Chihuahua in Mexico. Loss of prairie habitat has led to its disappearing from parts of its historic range. It is still found in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.
  Habitat

Black-tailed Prairie DogThe black-tailed prairie dog lives in burrows in dry prairies with short grass. Their burrows have an entrance that is surrounded by a pile of dirt.

Black-tailed Prairie DogThe entrance to a prairie dog's burrow looks a little like a volcano. The mound of dirt protects the burrow from flooding and is a good place for the prairie dog to sit and watch for predators like badgers, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, eagles and hawks. The burrow entrance leads to a tunnel that goes down about three to ten feet and then straightens out to a horizontal tunnel that runs about 10 to 15 feet. The burrow has a number of nesting chambers lined with grass. It also has a separate chamber used as a bathroom. When that chamber is full, the prairie dog will dig a new one.

  Diet

Black-tailed Prairie DogThe seeds stems, roots and leaves of forbs (flowering plants), grasses and weeds make up most of the prairie dog's diet. It will sometimes eat grasshoppers, beetles and other insects.

Black-tailed Prairie Dog The prairie dog gets most of the water it needs from the plants it eats. It usually eats all the plants right around its burrow. Clearing away the plants around the burrow helps the prairie dog spot predators. In the fall, prairie dogs put on a layer of fat to help them survive in the winter. Prairie dogs don't hibernate, but when the winter weather is extremely cold or snowy, they may go into a light hibernation-like sleep and stay in their burrows for a few days.

  Life Cycle
Black-tailed Prairie DogMating season runs from February through March. A month after mating, the female will have three to four pups. The pups are born naked and with their eyes closed. They stay in the burrow for about six weeks. They are weaned when they are about seven weeks old but will stay near their mother for another two weeks.

Female prairie dogs are very aggressive when they have pups. They will often fight with other females to guard their territory and their pups. Female prairie dogs will  invade the burrows of other female prairie dogs and kill any pups they find. The black-tailed prairie dog has one litter a year.

  Behavior

Black-tailed Prairie DogPrairie dogs are very social animals. They are active in the day. They live in large colonies or towns. A prairie dog town may have thousands of prairie dogs in it.

A prairie dog town is separated into smaller neighborhoods and the neighborhoods are divided into smaller family groups. A family group or coterie is made up of a male, one to four females and their young. They will greet each other by touching noses or turning their heads sideways and touching incisors. They also groom each other and work together to build their burrows. Prairie dogs are territorial. They will protect their coterie from other prairie dogs.

Black-tailed Prairie DogPrairie dogs are very vocal animals. They have lots of different calls. They use yips, growls, chattering, barks and chirps. When there is danger, prairie dogs have a call that is a chirp and a wheeze. Once one prairie dog starts the warning, others will continue. When it is safe, the prairie dog will leap in the air and yip. Other prairie dogs will hear the all-clear call, and soon the whole town will be yipping and jumping.

 

Video Credit: US Fish and Wildlife















 



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