Prairie Dog for Kids
Description: The Black-tailed Prairie Dog is a large member of the rodent family. It is entirely light brown with short legs and a black-tipped tail. Prairie Dogs often stand on their hind legs to survey their surroundings. Prairie Dogs measure between 12 and 17 inches long and weigh between one and three pounds. Prairie Dogs are often observed grooming each other.
Habitat/Range: Prairie Dogs occur throughout the plains sections of North America, from southern Canada to northern Mexico.
Diet: Prairie Dogs graze on prairie grasses and other vegetation. Their preference for herbs helps the growth of Grama Grass.
Young/Reproduction: Litters of up to ten Prairie Dogs are born in spring. The mother nurses her babies for seven weeks.
Behavior: The Prairie Dog is one of the most fascinating animals in North America. They live in social units that include an adult male, several females and their young. Social units (coteries) live side-by-side with other units and no one animal is dominant. Several coteries living side-by-side may form Prairie Dog “towns” that can be as large as 160 acres and can include thousands of animals. New territories are established when adults move out of the coterie. Prairie dogs coteries travel about in an interconnected network of tunnels and burrows. Burrows are surrounded by crater-shaped mounds that help prevent them from flooding. Prairie Dogs are always on the alert for predators and utter a familiar dog-like bark when a predator has been spotted. Prairie dogs have lots of enemies including foxes, wolves and golden eagles. One of the most successful predators of Prairie Dogs is the Badger. Badgers may attack Prairie Dogs before they reach their burrows, or may try enlarging an entrance of the Prairie Dog burrow. Prairie Dog burrows usually have two entrances which enable them to escape out the second if a Badger is occupying the first. Abandoned Prairie Dog burrows may be used by many other animals including Burrowing Owls.
Prairie Dog populations have been reduced by 98 percent since 1900.