Habitat & Range
Black-tailed prairie dogs occupy the Great Plains of the United States, including portions of several Western and Midwestern states. Their preferred habitat is short-grass and mixed-grass prairies and desert grasslands. Prairie dog habitats are referred to as towns.
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Location: South end of the Zoo; across from bison exhibit Arrived at EPZ: 04/22/1999
Closely related to the ground squirrel, the black-tailed prairie dog is generally tan in color with a lighter chest and neck. It has a long body, small front paws with long claws, and a short, black-tipped tail from which its name is derived. Adults weigh between 1.5 to 3 pounds and measure 14 to 17 inches tall.
Black-tailed prairie dogs are vegetarians, primarily feeding on grasses and other prairie plants. It is estimated that one prairie dog consumes approximately 7 pounds of herbage per month during the summer.
Reproduction & Lifespan
The mating season for black-tailed prairie dogs occurs between late February and April, but varies depending on food availability. The gestation period is 34 days and results in 3 to 4 pups per litter. The reproduction rate is slow when compared to other rodents, as females only produce one litter per year.
Black-tailed prairie dogs have an average lifespan of 5 years in the wild and up to 8 years in captivity.
Fantastic Fact Barking Up the Wrong Tree
Black-tailed prairie dogs are extremely vocal and have a sophisticated communication system. They have a variety of call sounds, including one that resembles a dog’s bark. Calls are used to warn others of an impending threat and spread quickly through a town in hopes of scaring off predators.
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