Black-tailed Prairie Dog

(Cynomys ludovicianus)


Black-tailed Prairie Dog IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The black-tailed prairie dog is a rather large, chunky, ground-dwelling squirrel with upperparts pinkish cinnamon mixed with buff. The tail is sparsely haired, tipped with black, and about one-fifth of the animal's total length. The eyes are large, the ears short and rounded. Head-body length is about 30 cm, the tail 8-9 cm. The body weight ranges from 1-2 kg.


Black-tailed prairie dogs hibernate. They are social and strictly diurnal with peaks of activity in the morning and evening. They typically inhabit short-grass prairies. Their homes consist of deep burrows, which are 7-10 cm in diameter. The entrances are funnel-shaped and usually descend at a steep angle for two or more metres before levelling off. From the lower part extend blind side tunnels and nest chambers. The main entrances are made conspicuous by the mounds and parapets constructed around them. These craterlike "dikes" are often 30 cm or more in height and serve to keep flash floods from inundating the burrows and also as lookout points for the animals.


The food of prairie doges is chiefly plant material, particularly low-growing weeds and grasses.


Prairie dog populations are comprised of several harem groups, of two to eight females that are defended by a single dominant male. One litter of four or five young is born in March or April. At birth the pups are blind and hairless and weigh about 15 g. Their eyes open at the age of 33-37 days, at which time the young squirrels are able to walk, run, eat green food, and "bark." They first appear above ground when about 6 weeks of age and are weaned shortly after that. The family unit remains intact for almost another month, but the ties are gradually broken and the family disperses. Sexual maturity is reached in the second year.

Did you know?
That prairie dogs are not dogs at all? They are actually one of about 2,000 rodent species that live all over the planet, and vegetable matter makes up 98% of their diet.


Name (Scientific) Cynomys ludovicianus
Name (English) Black-tailed Prairie Dog
Name (French) Chien de prairie à queue noire
Name (German) Schwarzschwanz-Präriehund
Name (Spanish) Perrito de las praderas de cola negra
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service



Range Canada, Mexico, USA
Habitat Short-grass prairie
Wild population 18.420.000 (2000) (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 2003 reported to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo

Black-tailed Prairie Dog


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 78 this is probably not correct, but should be 79) of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Colin Burnett

Why do zoos keep this animal

The prairie dog has lost a significant part of its habitat and has disappeared from many places, but it does not rely on reintroductions of zoo-bred animals. Zoos therefore keep prairie dogs, which are always busy and display an interesting social life, primarily for educational reasons. Prairie dogs also allow for arranging close encounters with visitors, and enclosures may be combined with underground tunnels and look-outs for children allowing them to play prairie dog, which are important means to awake a positive attitude towards animals and nature.