Animal Spotlight: The Prairie Dog

The Prairie Dog

The prairie dog, also known as the screaming squirrel, is not in fact, a dog. Why put ‘dog’ in their name if it’s not actually a dog? It all comes down to their warning call, which is very similar to a dog’s bark.

The prairie dog’s scientific name is Cynomys, and they are mammals. There are five prairie dog species: the white-tailed prairie dog, Gunnison’s prairie dog, Utah prairie dog, black-tailed prairie dog, and the Mexican prairie dog. The black-tailed prairie dog is the most known species and usually lives in large communities called towns.
Prairie dogs’ life span (in the wild) is three to four years. From head to toe, they are 12 to 15 inches long. Counting their tails would add an extra three to four inches. They typically weigh between two and four pounds. The black-tailed prairie dog is known for being a tan color with a white belly, having short ears and tails, and large black eyes.
They are known to be herbivores, eating grass or seeds during spring and summer, broadleaf forbs in fall, and seeds and insects in the winter when grass is unavailable. Most prairie dogs do not hibernate, and instead eat more to put on weight in preparation for the winters.

These small, furry animals are found in North America and live in underground burrows. These burrows usually have nurseries, sleeping quarters, and sometimes even bathrooms. Prairie dogs put lots of effort into their burrows. They are shared with other animals like snakes, burrowing owls, and black-footed ferrets. Prairie dogs also share these burrows with their family groups. They share each other’s food and groom each other. They also greet each other with a prairie dog kiss, which is something else they’re known for.