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.
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.
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.