Black-tailed prairie dog

Black-tailed prairie dog

Cynomys ludovicianus

Conservation status: IUCN – LC (Least concern)

Geographic range: North American prairies, especially near the United States-Canadian and the United States-Mexican borders.

Physical description: These are average-sized rodents with prevalent sexual dimorphism. Males can grow up to 41 cm long while females are typically between 35 and 37 cm long. They weigh between 705 to 1675 g, reaching their heaviest weight in the autumn because they save nutrients for the winter. They are brownish to brownish-red dorsally, with whitish fur on the ventrum. This species of prairie dogs differ from others due to their black-tipped tails, their smaller molars, and different territorial behaviour. 

Biology: Prairie dog colonies may contain hundreds of individuals. The largest colony ever recorded occurred in Texas and covered an area of 65,000 km2 and contained an estimated 400 million animals. Each coterie is populated by a group of closely related females (sisters, mothers, aunts) and one or two territorial males. Unlike many other species of prairie dogs, these animals do not hibernate during the winter. They make burrows as long as 33 m and as deep as 5 m. Breeding takes place between January and April with an average gestation time of 34 days. Litter sizes range from 1 to 8 young.

Lifespan: In the wild approximately 1 year, in captivity up to 8 years.

Food habits: Plants including grasses, weeds, and forbs comprise over 98% of their diet, though they sometimes eat grasshoppers, cutworms, bugs, and beetles.

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