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Black-Tailed Prairie Dog

Scientific Name:
Cynomys ludovicianus

Status:
Lower risk in US. Endangered in Mexico

Distribution:
Great Plains from Montana and southern Saskatchewan to extreme northern Mexico

Habitat:
Grasslands on plains and mesas

Diet:
(Herbivore) In the wild- grass, weeds, sometimes cactus, bark, twigs; In the Zoo- grains, seeds, fruit, vegetables, alfalfa

Length:
388 mm

Weight:
1-2 kg

Reproduction:
Two to 10 young (5 usually) are born after 27-37 days. Breeding season is February-May. Young wean at 6 weeks and come above ground.

Longevity:
8 years

General Description:
Black-tailed prairie dogs tend to be somewhat larger than the other species and have a longer tail with a black tip.

Behavior:
Their most common noise, a rapid series of "yips," has given rise to the common name: "dog"; other sounds as trills, whistles and chatters are of a more ground squirrel-like nature. When a stalking predator approaches a prairie dog colony, the owners chatter a warning then dive into the security of their deep burrows. The main shaft alone is estimated from 10-20 ft. (3-6 m). After some time has passed, a few curious "dogs" will surface to give the all-clear signal; within minutes the whole colony is above ground and normal community life is resumed. The ground around the burrow, for a distance of some feet, is completely bare. Surrounding this bare spot is an area, which might compare to a pasture in which the prairie dogs eat green plants and may overlap territories of other prairie dogs living nearby. The prairie dog makes the most of food that is close to home.

Did you know? In the early 1900's, prairie dogs were considered economic menaces because they did extensive damage to crops and pastures. Also, burrow holes were hazardous to livestock. Public and private poisoning programs decreased populations so much that two of the five species of prairie dogs are classified as endangered. As populations of prairie dogs decreased, so did populations of black-footed ferrets whose main prey was a prairie dog. The black-footed ferret is now an endangered species. The El Paso Zoo is helping to save black-footed ferrets from extinction by participating in a project to reintroduce the species in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.

Where can you find them? Zoos and natural habitats throughout their range

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Our mission is to celebrate the value of animals and natural resources and to create opportunities for people to rediscover their connection to nature.