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Black-tailed prairie dog

Cynomys ludovicianus

Black tailed prairie dog

The black-tailed prairie dog is a species of ground squirrel. These rodents live in large underground burrows, called ‘towns’. These extensive tunnels contain separate chambers for sleeping, rearing young and for waste. The entrances to these complex tunnels can be identified by a raised dome-like mound of dirt. The dirt pile provides protection from the weather and also gives the prairie dog extra height when watching and scanning for predators.

Prairie dogs create their towns in the prairies and grasslands of North America.

They are very social animals and live in closely-knit family groups called "coteries" within their town. Coteries usually contain an adult male, one or more adult females and their young offspring.

Animal class


Diet - Herbivore 
Black tailed prairie dogs eat mainly leaves, stems and the roots of grasses.

The prairie dog measures up to 41.5 centimetres in height and can weigh up to 1.6 kilograms.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are found in open, arid, grasslands from Texas up to Canada. 

Conservation status
The IUCN believes that black tailed prairie dogs could soon be facing a risk of extinction.

This rodent was once targeted as a pest but the main threat to the black tailed prairie dog is the destruction of habitat due to agricultural expansion.

Current population
There were once five billion prairie dogs in mid-west USA. Only 10 to 20 million remain today.

Zoo population
There is no breeding programme for black tailed prairie dogs. However, there are 2,560 in zoos around the world.