Part of the rodent family, prairie dogs are actually short-tailed, short-legged squirrels.
Gunnison's prairie dog: Candidate for being listed as threatened or endangered
Utah prairie dog: Threatened
Threats: Historically, prairie dogs were subject to intensive poisoning programs by farmers, ranchers, and the government. These activities continue on private lands today, as does unregulated recreational shooting. Plague is also a serious threat to remaining populations.
A fraction of their historic numbers, 10,000,000 to 12,000,000 prairie dogs survive in our nation's remaining prairie ecosystems.
Typically, prairie dogs survive three to four years in the wild, although they have been known to reach eight years in captivity.
Prairie dogs weigh 2 to 3 pounds and measure 12 to 15 inches in length with a 3- to 4-inch tail. While grass is their favorite food, they also consume roots, seeds, and leafy plants seasonally.
Black-tailed prairie dogs can be found in the Great Plains from Montana and southern Saskatchewan to northern Mexico. Prairie dogs inhabit open plains and plateaus. They live in underground communities called towns. Prairie dog towns have social structures that include wards, and smaller social groups called coteries. Each coterie usually consists of one male, three or four females, and several young. Prairie dogs are very social animals. They participate in such activities as kissing, nuzzling, and grooming, and they communicate through vocalizations that warn others of the presence of predators.
Prairie dogs are found in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND; Badlands National Park, SD; Wind Cave National Park, SD; Devils Tower National Monument, WY.