There are five different kinds of prairie dogs:
black-tailed, Gunnisonís, Utah, white-tailed, and Mexican.
The first four live in the western United States and the
fifth lives in Mexico.
The Black-tailed prairie dog is a kind of ground squirrel.
There are a lot of these prairie dogs and they are the most
common. They got their
name from the black tip on their tail.
These dogs live around the Great Plains from the bottom of
Canada to the top of Mexico.
White-tailed prairie dogs got their names from
the white or gray color at the tip of their tails. Prairie
dogs have big, dark eyes and their ears are small and close to their
heads. Their whiskers
help them move around by sensing what is around them.
They are about a foot long and weigh from 2-3 pounds.
dogs live in burrows. They
only come out in the daytime to get food.
They mostly eat green leafy things, prairie plants, and
They like to be around other prairie dogs and live in places called colonies
and towns. Each colony
might have as many as 500 dogs in it.
Larger colonies are divided into areas that are about an
acre. These are called coteries.
Separate families of
prairie dogs live in each coterie.
Each coterie has underground burrows
of tunnels and rooms. There
is usually one male that watches over the coterie.
When dogs from different coteries meet, they will stare at
each other and then start to chatter.
They might do this for half an hour.
The burrows are at least
16 feet deep. The are two
entrances. They need two so
that fresh air can come in and they can get out if there are enemies
coming in. Their enemies are
bobcats, badgers, falcons, eagles, and
coyotes. They chirp and bark
loudly when an enemy is around.
Prairie dogs mate and then have their babies between
January and April. The female
is pregnant for a month.
Prairie dogs are born in litters
of 1-6 dogs. Male babies leave
when they are between 12-14 months old.
They will end up taking a coterie from an older male dog.
Most female dogs live about 8 years if they live through the first
year. The male will live 5
years if they get through the first one.
The first year is very hard on babies because enemies can catch
These animals spend the winter in deep
hibernation. Their bodies live off of the extra food they eat in the
fall. Once they go to sleep, their body temperatures and heart beats
drop very low. They do not use much body fuel because they are just
sleeping. This makes the stored fat last longer. They come out
of hibernation anytime from the middle of March to the end of April.
By June, the babies are outside, too. The black-tailed prairie dog
does not do deep hibernation.
not like prairie dogs because they dig burrows and this makes tall piles
of dirt that get in the way of farm machinery and are dangerous for
The prairie dogís main problem is that the prairies
are gradually disappearing. In
1905 there were 800 million of them. After
farming took over the prairies, by the 1970s there were only 2.2 million
left. The Mexican prairie dog
is on the endangered list and the Utah dog is threatened.
Back to Hibernation