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Prairie Dog Facts

  • Prairie dogs are members of the squirrel family.
  • Prairie dogs range in weight from 1-3 lbs. and in length from 13-17 inches.
  • The lifespan of a prairie dog is 3-5 years in the wild and up to 8 years in captivity.
  • Today, black-tailed prairie dogs number around 10-20 million. At one time they numbered in the hundreds of millions and were possibly the most abundant mammal in North America.
  • Prairie dogs live in 10 states. They are South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
  • Prairie dogs number from 5-35 dogs per acre.
  • Prairie dogs primarily eat native plants like grasses, roots, forbs, weeds, and blossoms.  In rare instances, they will eat insects.
  • Prairie dogs do not need to drink water because they get enough water from their leafy diet.
  • Prairie dogs live in closely- knit families called coteries.
  • Coteries contain an adult male, one or more adult females, and their offspring.  Coteries are grouped into neighborhoods and several of these make up a town.
  • Prairie dog towns have separate rooms for nurseries, eating, sleeping, and even toilets.
  • Regular activities for the prairie dog are hugging, grooming, and kissing.
  • Female prairie dogs bear one litter each year, usually 3-5 pups, in March and April.
  • Prairie dogs can reach speeds of 35mph in short bursts.
  • Prairie dogs protect themselves with loud warnings (barks) that alert other town members of impeding danger.  These barks are specific to the predator.
  • Prairie dogs have up to 50 different barks and are thought to have the most complex language of animals that have been studied.
  • The black-footed ferret is an endangered species that relies on the prairie dog for food and uses its burrows for shelter.
  • Other predators are humans, snakes, Swift Foxes, Mountain Plovers, and Burrowing Owls.
  • Prairie dogs are very susceptible to the bubonic plague.
  • Prairie dogs are rapidly disappearing after decades of eradication by federal, state and local governments.  Also, devastation from disease, poisoning, recreational shooting, and habitat destruction are helping in their demise.