Black-tailed Prairie Dog

Genus: Cynomys
Species: ludovicianus

Black-tailed prairie dog in Lewistown, Montana

Black-tailed prairie dogs are small rodents of the Great Plains. They are one of the keystone species of the west, because their population health impacts numerous other species.

Prairie dogs were killed in large numbers throughout the western United States, because the prairie dog colonies disrupted farms and competed with grazing cattle.  As the number of prairie dogs dramatically declined, it caused a ripple effect that impacted the success of other Great Plains species.  Black-footed ferrets are now one of the most endangered mammals in North America because their chief food, the black-tailed prairie dog, has been reduced in numbers.

Description:  Black-tailed prairie dogs are small rodents with a height of about 16 inches. They are tan over most of their body except for the lighter colored belly. 

The easiest way to tell the black-tailed prairie dog from other prairie dogs is to look for its namesake black tipped tail! 

Prairie dogs are very social and live in large colonies in underground burrows. Not only do prairie dogs live together, but they also share the responsibilities to look out for predators. While other prairie dogs are foraging for plants, a few prairie dogs will become look outs and watch for hawks, coyotes or badgers.

Prairie dogs like to communicate with each other. They bark, yip and whistle to signal the presence of predators and other dangers.

Range:  Prairie dogs live in grasslands throughout the Great Plains. 

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