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Black-tailed prairie dog

Scientific Name: Cynomys ludovicianus

The black-tailed prairie dog is a rodent species with tan coloured fur that is paler on their fronts than on their backs.

They live in family groups called coteries containing a single male, several females and their offspring. This group will live in a communal burrow system. They are sociable and several coteries will group together into ‘towns’. The largest town recorded had 400 million animals, more individuals than are currently alive today! They are highly social animals that use scent, touch and vocalisations to communicate.

Females are very territorial, defending their pups until they emerge from the burrows at around a month old. Females remain in their birth coterie for life, whereas males leave to find their own coterie when fully grown. Males have a lower life expectancy (five years) than females who may reach eight years old.

Black-tailed prairie dogs eat mostly grasses, with some leafy shrubs. A very small amount of insect material is also consumed.

Habitat destruction, due to human housing and agriculture expansion, is a serious threat. This is compounded by attempts to control the population with poisoning and shooting as the prairie dogs are often thought of as pests. Black-tailed prairie dogs are also highly susceptible to “sylvatic plague” a disease which is devastating some populations. Despite these threats the population is quite strong and the IUCN classify them as Least Concern.

Key Facts:

  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
  • Distribution: Canada, Mexico, USA
  • Habitat: Grassland
  • Diet: Insects, Leaves, Omnivourous
  • Height: 340 – 430mm
  • Weight: 600 – 1500g
  • Gestation: 33 – 38 days
  • No. of young: 1 – 8
  • Life Span: 5 – 8 years