Black-tailed prairie dogs are listed as least concern by the IUCN. Though population is declining due to destruction of habitat, prairie dogs are still rather common. In the early 1800’s, they roamed most of the western United States and numbered about five billion. Today, 99% of that population is gone, attributed to a decades-long government-funded eradication program that eliminated prairie dogs by hunting and poisoning. Farming and development since then has reduced the prairie dog’s habitat to less than one percent of its historic size – from over 100 million acres to less than one million acres.
PRAIRIE DOG EXPLOSIONS: KILL SHOTS - YouTube
For black-tailed prairie dogs, the resident male of the family group fathers all the offspring. Multiple paternity in litters seems to be more common in Utah and Gunnison’s prairie dogs. Mother prairie dogs do most of the care for the young. In addition to nursing the young, the mother also defends the nursery chamber and collects grass for the nest. Males play their part by defending the territories and maintaining the burrows. The young spend their first six weeks below the ground being nursed. They are then weaned and begin to surface from the burrow. By five months, they are fully grown. The subject of cooperative breeding in prairie dogs has been debated among biologists. Some argue prairie dogs will defend and feed young that are not theirs, and it seems young will sleep in a nursery chamber with other mothers; since most nursing occurs at night, this may be a case of communal nursing. In the case of the latter, others suggest communal nursing occurs only when mothers mistake another female's young for their own. is known to occur in prairie dogs. Males which take over a family group will kill the offspring of the previous male. This causes the mother to go into estrus sooner. However, most infanticide is done by close relatives. Lactating females will kill the offspring of a related female both to decrease competition for the female’s offspring and for increased foraging area due to a decrease in territorial defense by the victimized mother. Supporters of the theory that prairie dogs are communal breeders state that another reason for this type of infanticide is so that the female can get a possible helper. With their own offspring gone, the victimized mother may help raise the young of other females.
Just some good ol' prairie dog hunting
Black-tailed prairie dogs have a sophisticated communication system; with a host of calls, postures and displays that are used to alert the group of the presence of predators, such as coyotes, bobcats, badgers, black-footed ferrets, golden eagles and hawks. Scientists have discovered that prairie dogs can even discriminate between airborne and ground predators, as well as individual humans dressed in different clothing! An alarm call is sounded to warn of a predator: a sharp bark, followed by a quick descent into the burrow. When the predator is gone, a special “all-clear” call informs family members that the danger has passed. Other communications include mouth-to-mouth contact, or “kissing,” used to identify coterie members from those outside their group.
They are prairie dogs people not panda bears