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Black-tailed Prairie Dog

Cynomys ludovicianus

Did you know?

  • Black-tailed prairie dogs are part of the Sciuridae family, which includes other squirrels.
  • Their name comes from their "barking" calls.
  • They live in prairies, meadows and open country in North America.
  • They are known as dogs but are actually large ground squirrels.
  • They create huge burrows that are called towns.


Black-tailed prairie dogs are highly social rodents that have developed important family structures and communications. They use differentiating sounds to warn others of various predators. They are small, typically one to three pounds, and so find strength in numbers. One dog town can be divided into subgroups, groups, and families, so that it almost reflects a human community.

Landscaping Legends

Black-tailed prairie dogs live in large towns, or systems of underground burrows and tunnels. These burrows protect them from coyotes and other predators. Burrows can be complex and extensive, and one burrow can support tens of thousands of dogs. They are organized and different areas have different uses. For example, they include nursery burrows for expecting moms. Prairie dogs are considered a keystone species partly because their burrows benefit many other species, especially when they are abandoned by the prairie dogs, opening up the tunnels for others seeking shelter.

Threat Level

  • Unknown
  • Common
  • Near Threatened
  • Threatened
  • Endangered
  • Critically Endangered
  • Extinct in the Wild


The Black-tailed Prairie Dog is widespread and abundant.


North America


Prairies in open country from the plains to alpine meadows

We care about black-tailed prairie dogs

Although this species numbered more than 800 million in 1900, there are fewer than 3 million prairie dogs today. For decades, farmers and ranchers tried to exterminate them for a number of reasons regarding livestock and crops. The federal Endangered Species Act has greatly helped this species, and we support prairie dogs by supporting a town at the Zoo. Learn more about our conservation efforts.

Dedicated to Conservation

Find this animal in The Wild


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