BLACK-TAILED PRAIRIE DOG
Photo by Bob Gress
Total Length: 14-17 inches
Tail Length: 2 - 4 inches
Weight: 1-3 pounds
Black-tailed prairie dogs, named for their black-tipped tails and
dog-like "bark," once lived throughout the Great Plains in "towns"
that extended for miles and contained hundreds of thousands of individuals. Current dog
towns seldom exceed 100 acres due to changes in land use and poisoning. They excavate a
complex underground system of tunnels and rooms that may be as deep as 15 feet with
horizontal tunnels reaching 10-15 feet long. The soil is pushed to the surface to create
numerous mounds. They forage throughout the day with sentinels sitting upright, standing
guard as others feed. When a predator is sighted, the sentinel "barks" and the
entire colony scampers to their protective burrows. Abandoned burrows provide homes for
spiders, salamanders, toads, ornate box turtles, snakes and burrowing owls. In the spring,
females produce a single litter of 2-10 pups. They may live up to 8 years.
Black-tailed prairie dogs live on the High Plains from northern Mexico to southern
Canada. They are found in shortgrass prairies and overgrazed rangelands of the western
half of Kansas.
Black-tailed prairie dogs feed primarily on green vegetation, including grasses,
forbs, seeds, stems and the occasional insect.
Other Kansas Rodents
Return to the Mammal's Den!
Text: George Potts and Bob Gress
Design: Jim Mason