White-tailed prairie dog

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White-tailed prairie dog (Rodentia: Scuiridae: Cynomys leucurus) photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

Although the black-tailed prairie dogs (Rodentia: Scuiridae: Cynomys ludovicianus) of the Great Plains are the most common, most widespread, and best-known prairie dogs, there are four additional species that can also be found in North America. Among them are the white-tailed prairie dogs (Rodentia: Scuiridae: Cynomys leucurus) that inhabit parts of eastern Utah, western Colorado, and much of Wyoming.

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White-tailed prairie dog (Rodentia: Scuiridae: Cynomys leucurus) photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

These large rodents live in underground colonies among higher-altitude desert shrublands and grasslands. After emerging from hibernation in the spring, they soon begin mating. The rest of the year is spent raising young and fattening themselves up for the next winter. They will eat a number of different plants, depending on what’s available at a given time.

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White-tailed prairie dog (Rodentia: Scuiridae: Cynomys leucurus) photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

White-tailed prairie dogs are preyed upon by many other animals including ferrets, badgers, eagles, hawks, skunks, raccoons, coyotes, and foxes. None of these predators, however, have had such a devastating effect on them as humans. Although prairie dogs improve soil quality and plant growth by aerating, tilling, and fertilizing the earth, they can also be pests in crop fields. Because of this humans embarked on a large-scale eradication campaign early in the twentieth century. Millions of acres of prairie dog towns were poisoned and over 95% of the population was wiped out. Conservation measures in more recent decades have helped them recover somewhat, but their numbers are still only a fraction of what they once were.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Culture, Ecology, National Parks, Vertebrate Zoology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to White-tailed prairie dog

  1. Jet Eliot says:

    I appreciate this upbeat highlight on prairie dogs. It’s still fashionable in some places to hate prairie dogs and this is a shame.

    Like

  2. Jeremy Sell says:

    I’m always amazed at what’s still fashionable in some places, whether it’s hating on prairie dogs, wolves, or different types of people.

    I also can’t comprehend the thought process behind things like “a prairie dog ate a few of my crop plants and cost me like 50 cents…so we should exterminate the entire species.”

    Like

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