Black-Tailed Prairie Dog

black-tailed prairie dog
Black-Tailed Prairie Dog
Jeff Foott/DCI

The highly social black-tailed prairie dog lives in large subterranean colonies, called townships.

The largest reported township was estimated to contain some 400 million residents and to extend twenty-five thousand square miles (65,000 sq km).


Townships are divided into wards, which are subdivided into coteries, or harems, composed of one or more adult males, several females, and juveniles. A coterie defends its territory — typically less than one acre (0.5 ha) in size — against other coteries.

Diurnal herbivores, prairie dogs spend most of their time above ground, foraging in short- to mid-grass prairie.

Their repertoire of calls may include separate alarm calls for aerial and terrestrial predators.

When township density is high, they may kill up to half of the young of close genetic relatives.


Animal Facts

Name: Black-Tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus)

Family: Sciuridae (Squirrels)


Range: Saskatchewan, central United States, and northern Mexico

Habitat: Prairie

Diet: Leaves, stems, grass roots, weeds, forbs, and insects

Head and Body Length: 11 to 13 inches (28 to 32 cm)

Tail Length: 3 to 4 inches (8.5 to 9.5 cm)

Weight: 2 to 3 pounds (0.9 to 1.3 kg)

Life Cycle: Mating February to April; gestation about 30 days, four or five (may be up to ten) young born

Description: Cinnamon-buff coat; pale underneath; large head; large eyes; short ears; short, powerful limbs; short, black-tipped tail

Conservation Status: Lower Risk (Near Threatened)

Major Threat: Habitat loss and degradation

What Can I Do?: Visit the National Wildlife Federation for information on how you can help.