Prairie Dog, a North American rodent. It gets its name from its shrill, barking cry. The prairie dog is short and stout, with small, rounded ears and a short tail. Its fur is a grizzled yellow above and buff-colored underneath. There are five species of prairie dogs, which range in length from 12 to 17 inches (30 to 43 cm), including a 1- to 4-inch (2.5- to 10-cm) tail. They weigh from 1 ½ to 3 ½ pounds (0.7 to 1.6 kg).

Prairie dogsPrairie dogs are burrowing animals that live in colonies.

Prairie dogs are burrowing animals, and live in colonies called “towns.” In the past, some prairie dog towns covered more than 100 square miles (260 km2) and had millions of inhabitants. The burrows go straight down for 3 to 16 feet (1 to 5 m), then turn and run horizontally for 13 to 110 feet (4 to 34 m). A wall of earth, two to three feet (60 to 90 cm) high, circles each entrance and keeps rainwater from flowing into the burrows. Prairie dogs often sit on these mounds for hours. If an enemy appears, they bark a warning and jump into their burrows. Prairie dogs are preyed on by foxes, coyotes, snakes, and hawks.

Prairie dogs feed on seeds, roots, grasses, and insects. Most species hibernate during the winter. In early spring, prairie dogs mate. After a gestation period of 30 days, the female gives birth to a litter of three to five young. The young stay in the burrow until they are six weeks old. Prairie dogs have a life span of about eight years.

The five species of prairie dogs are the black-tailed prairie dog, white-tailed prairie dog, Utah prairie dog, Gunnison's prairie dog, and Mexican prairie dog. They are found from southern Canada through Montana, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona to Mexico. Beginning in the early 1900's, prairie dogs were poisoned in large numbers by farmers and ranchers, who considered them to be agricultural pests. Conservation measures taken since the 1970's have helped prairie dogs reestablish themselves in certain areas. The Utah and Mexican species are threatened with extinction.

Prairie dogs belong to the squirrel family, Sciuridae. The black-tailed prairie dog is Cynomys ludovicianus; white-tailed, C. leucurus. Utah, C. parvidens; Gunnison's, C. gunnisoni: Mexican, C. mexicanus.