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Squirrels and Relatives: Sciuridae

Black-tailed Prairie Dog (cynomys Ludovicianus): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Black-tailed prairie dogs have sharp teeth, a black-tipped tail, and are about 14 to 15.7 inches (35.5 to 39.8 centimeters) long. Their fur is brown, golden brown, or reddish brown, and whitish on the underside.

Geographic range: These prairie dogs are found in areas from Canada to Mexico. In Canada they are found in Saskatchewan; in the United States they live from Montana to eastern Nebraska, south to northern Mexico.

Habitat: Black-tailed prairie dogs live in open, flat and arid, extremely dry, grassy plains.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are very social, living together in underground burrows called "towns." (© George D. Lepp/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: These animals eat primarily leaves, stems, grass roots, weeds, and wildflowers. They will sometimes eat grasshoppers, beetles and other insects.

Behavior and reproduction: Black-tailed prairie dogs are extremely social. They dig a complex series of tunnels deep into the ground, which is called a town. Towns can spread over hundreds of acres and contain thousands of prairie dogs. They communicate to one another frequently, using yips, growls, chattering, barks and chirps.

Black-tailed prairie dogs have one litter a year. Breeding occurs from February to March. A month after mating, the female will have three to four offspring. Female prairie dogs are extremely protective of their young. They will often fight with other females to guard their territory and babies.

Black-tailed prairie dogs and people: Some farmers and ranchers consider black-tailed prairie dogs pests. Livestock can hurt a leg if they step into a prairie dog's burrow, and they may compete with livestock for food.

Conservation status: Black-tailed prairie dogs are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsSquirrels and Relatives: Sciuridae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Squirrels And People, Southern Flying Squirrel (glaucomys Volans): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS