Is the Prairie Dog Really a Dog?
No, despite its name and its barking call, the prairie dog is actually a member of the ground squirrel family. They got the name “dog” from the dog-like bark sound they make. The prairie dog lives in underground burrows in the western United States. These burrows have so many tunnels that people refer to them as towns. Hundreds of prairie dog families may live in these towns.
A mound of dirt surrounds the entrance to each burrow. A prairie dog usually stands guard at the entrance to its burrow. If it spots danger, it barks loudly, and they all scramble to their homes for safety. They mostly stay in their burrows during the winter, living off of fat they have stored up during the summer. White-tailed prairie dogs will often hibernate for up to 6 months out of the year.
They are small little furry animals. They grow to just over a foot tall and have a tail that is 3 to 4 inches long. They typically weigh between 2 to 4 pounds. They have brown fur, black eyes, and short limbs with claws. The typical lifespan of a prairie dog is three to four years.
There are five different species of prairie dogs including the black-tailed, white-tailed, Mexican, Gunnison’s, and the Utah. The Utah and the Mexican prairie dog are officially classified as endangered species. However, the large drop in population of all of the species is of great concern to many scientists.
Are prairie dogs friendly? Prairie dogs (most often black-tailed prairie dogs) are becoming popular as pets. Like all rodents, they have teeth that continually grow throughout life. They are active, playful and sturdy rodents and can make wonderful, affectionate pets if purchased young, socialized properly and given lots of attention.