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Category: Dog Trainer Certification Programs | Author: admin 17.02.2015
GenusCynomys (1)Named for their dog-like yip, prairie dogs are in fact rather large, stout, ground-dwelling squirrels (3) (4). Black-tailed prairie dog biologyBlack-tailed prairie dogs exhibit a high degree of social organisation, living in enormous colonies known as ‘towns’ containing from hundreds to millions of individuals (1) (7). Black-tailed prairie dog threatsPrairie dogs have suffered from habitat loss and persecution as ranching and farming has expanded during the past 50 years or more (1) (4). Black-tailed prairie dog conservationStill widespread, relatively common, and existing in a number of protected areas, the black-tailed prairie dog is not considered to be under any serious threat of extinction in the foreseeable future, and conservation measures are therefore limited (7).
To learn more about a Whitley Award-winning conservation project for this species, click here.
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends. GenusCynomys (1)The rare, herbivorous, social Utah prairie dog is not, as its name suggests, a dog, but is in fact a ground-dwelling rodent of the squirrel family (Sciuridae) (5) (6).
Utah prairie dog biologyThe Utah prairie dog lives in large colonies that sometimes contain thousands of residents.
The Utah prairie dog is primarily a herbivore that feeds on grasses, flowers, and seeds, but it sometimes eats insects as well (11).
The mating season for the Utah prairie dog is usually in late March through early April, during which time each female is sexually receptive for only several hours on a single day.
Predators of the Utah prairie dog are numerous (8) (10), and include American badgers (Taxidea taxus), coyotes (Canis latrans), long-tailed weasels (Mustela frenata), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), golden eagles (Aquilachrysaetos), northern goshawks (Accipiter gentilis), and prairie falcons (Falco mexicanus). Utah prairie dog habitatAs suggested by its name, the Utah prairie dog inhabits grasslands (or ‘prairies’).
Utah prairie dog threatsThe main threat to the Utah prairie dog is a common one: the invasion of its habitat by humans. Utah prairie dog conservationBy 1991, populations of the Utah prairie dog had declined so steeply that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service classified it as an ‘Endangered’ species, making it illegal to kill, and a formal recovery plan was established. GenusCynomys (1)Prairie dogs are highly social rodents that belong to the same family as squirrels.

Mexican prairie dog biologyThe Mexican prairie dog is a highly social species, occurring in large colonies that live in extensive burrow networks known as ‘towns’ (4). Mexican prairie dog rangeAs the common name suggests, this species is endemic to Mexico (1).
Mexican prairie dog habitatInhabits flat prairies and valleys between mountains at altitudes of 1600 to 2200 meters (4) (5). Mexican prairie dog threatsThe main threat facing this species has been loss of suitable habitat as a result of expansion of agriculture and livestock farming (1). Mexican prairie dog conservationThe Mexican prairie dog is classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List 2003 and is protected against international trade by its listing under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (1) (3). The black-tailed prairie dog is generally tan to pinkish-brown above and whitish to buff coloured below, and is named for the distinctive and diagnostic black tip to its short tail (4). As agriculture and livestock ranching claimed habitat previously used by these rodents, the prairie dogs became vilified by farmers and the target of poisoning campaigns (1). The Prairie Dog Coalition has been established to protect the animals and restore prairie dog ecosystems, as well as aiming to raise public awareness of the plight they face at the hands of agricultural expansion and misinformed farmers (10). Hamster- or marmot-like in appearance, with a short tail and small ears (7), the Utah prairie dog usually has light brown on the back, while the fur on the stomach and short tail is usually white. It is a diurnal rodent, and in good weather forages above ground from shortly after dawn until shortly after sunset (2) (3).
Ranchers clearing land for grazing view the Utah prairie dog as a pest which spreads disease and consumes vegetation that their cattle would otherwise eat, and so commonly use poisonous bait scattered near burrow-entrances or poisonous gases injected into burrows to eliminate the prairie dog (1) (3) (11). The plan involved moving prairie dog populations from private to public land, thereby removing the temptation for farmers and ranchers to poison or shoot them. To learn about climate change and the species that are affected, visit our climate change pages. As the species is often perceived as an agricultural pest, Mexican prairie dog towns have been exterminated by deliberate poisoning, despite the fact that the species is fully protected against deliberate killing by Mexican law (5). Protecion de la Fauna Mexicana recently carried out a conservation project targeted at the Mexican prairie dog, funded by Fondo Mexicano para la Conservacion de la Naturaleza, Mexico.

Prairie dogs are widely considered a pest and exterminated through poisoning and shooting for destroying cultivated crops (8). The juveniles remain underground for five to six weeks after birth until they are weaned, and a litter of one to seven young first appears above ground in late May or early June (8) (9). Both males and females are a light buff colour and the final half of the tail is black, allowing them to be easily distinguished from other species of prairie dog (5). This project set aside 114 hectares of prairie dog colony to be protected and managed in ways that benefit the species.
As a result, the former range and numbers of the black-tailed prairie dog have been dramatically reduced, and the considerable reduction in population numbers has also seriously threatened, amongst others, the black-footed ferret (classified as Extinct in the Wild), for which they were virtually sole prey (5).
Should it survive that first vulnerable year, the Utah prairie dog may live as long as eight years (8) (9). Female Utah prairie dogs usually first mate and successfully wean their first litter when they are one year old. The only hope for the survival of the Mexican prairie dog is that methods can be found to reconcile cattle-keeping and the native fauna of the area (6). Females can live up to eight years of age, whereas males tend not to live longer than five years in the wild (7).The black-tailed prairie dog is diurnal and active throughout the year (7). Unlike many other species of prairie dog, these animals do not hibernate, although when the winter weather is extremely cold or snowy they may spend extended periods of time underground (2). Most prairie dogs forage close to their burrows when possible, moving into distant foraging areas only when forced to do so by local shortages of green shoots (7). While prairie dogs are out foraging, a sentry perches on the volcano-like ring that surrounds the burrow and watches for predators.

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