Beavers are known for their hard work, but prairie dogs can give these busy beavers a run for their money. These little guys build whole underground houses where hundreds of them take refuge.
Interesting facts about their homes
- They live in highly sophisticated colonies with underground burrows guarded by sentries.
- Their preferred habitat is low shrub meadows.
- They are “cornerstone species”, which means that their presence is critical to the entire ecosystem.
- They greet each other by showing their teeth.
- Their babies are called puppies.
What is a prairie dog?
Despite the name, it is not a dog. It is a burrowing rodent endemic to the western United States.
These burrowing cows are found in Texas, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, and other western and central states.
These rodents are known for their enchanting beauty, vast underground colonies, and loud barks that give them their name.
There are five species of prairie dogs: black-tailed, white-tailed, utah, Hannison, and Mexican.
Prairie dogs are a key species. According to Oxford Dictionary of Zoologya key species “has a disproportionately strong impact within a particular ecosystem, such that its removal would destabilize the ecosystem and could lead to further loss of species”.
Where do prairie dogs live?
Prairie dogs live in mixed and short pastures that are large enough to accommodate their vast colonies.
Home Sweet Home
Prairie dogs are highly social creatures and they build large colonies known as prairie dog cities. Each city has a series of associated underground burrows that they use to visit each other and hide from predators.
The city is very difficult. Each is divided into chambers and then into smaller chambers called “circles”. The word coterie is a French word meaning clique or club.
In prairie dog cities, the crowd consists of a male, up to four females, and prairie pups up to two years old. Some coteries may have 10 or more offspring.
Each burrow is guarded by a “watch” meadow dog, which barks to warn others of the impending danger. When the sentry barks, the rest of the prairie dogs dive into their burrow and wait for “everything is clear” to bark.
Where to see wild prairie dogs
Prairie Dog City: This sanctuary in Lubbock, Texas was the world’s first prairie dog sanctuary. Kennedy Clapp and his wife lived in Lubbock in 1931. The government recently conducted an atomic test near Lubbock, and the Clapps are concerned that the test could harm black-tailed prairie dog colonies (Cynomys ludovicianus). They founded Prairie Dog City with four dogs and two minks in a local park.
In 1935 it became part of the state parks system and moved to Mackenzie Park. Since then, Prairie Dog City has become one of Lubbock’s main attractions. It is also a refuge for burrowing owls that share burrows with prairie dogs. In 2004, local businesses undertook a major overhaul with improved parking, observation deck and ADA accessibility.
Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge: This national park in Colorado is home to many birds, waterfowl and mammals, including the prairie dog city and white-tailed prairie dog.
Valles Caldera National Reserve: This wildlife sanctuary in New Mexico is home to a wide variety of wildlife. There are many Gunnison prairie dogs among its inhabitants.
Prairie dogs in zoos
Some zoos have established safe colonies where prairie dogs can dig and burrow as much as they please. These playful, busy rodents always grab the attention of visitors.
You can see these cute critters at the Southwick Zoo in Mendon, Massachusetts.
The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore has its own Prairie Dog City, full of black-tailed prairie dogs. In the spring of 2021, the zoo celebrated the birth of several puppies.
The St. Louis Zoo has a city of prairie dogs with black tailed prairie dogs. So is the Bergen County Zoo in New Jersey.
Are they endangered?
Gunnison’s black-tailed, white-tailed and prairie dogs are “of least concern” in terms of conservation status. Despite this status, conservationists emphasize the importance of maintaining healthy populations of prairie dogs. They highlight the fact that their numbers have declined and that their populations are still under threat. The Utah prairie dog and the Mexican prairie dog are endangered.
Next: are coyotes dangerous to humans?
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is the name of the prairie dog house?
This is the city of prairie dogs. Within the city, each circle or family guards an area of approximately one acre.
Are prairie dogs aggressive towards humans?
Like other rodents, they are very intelligent and playful. They are not aggressive towards people because they are afraid of us. Like their squirrel cousins, they are used to living among humans, but they are not pets. You must enjoy them from a distance.
How many prairie dogs live in each city?
There may be hundreds or even thousands of residents in a city. Each party includes several females and all young puppies. When the puppies are two years old, they leave the party and start their own family. The largest recorded city was 100 by 250 miles in size and was home to 400 million prairie dogs.
Are prairie dogs the same as marmots?
No, they are not. Marmots are also rodents, but they are much larger than prairie dogs and do not form complex colonies. Marmots live alone, and prairie dogs are very sociable.
Are they the same as gophers?
Gophers are also rodents and also dig holes, but they are not the same animal. Prairie dogs are about the size of a rabbit, and gophers are about the size of squirrels.
There are also differences in how everyone uses their habitat. Gophers spend most of their time underground, while prairie dogs prefer to spend time above ground. They enter their burrows only to hide from predators and other threats.