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WHAT IS THE PRARIE DOG?


Prarie Dogs are active, playful and strong rodents that can make wonderful, affectionate pets when socialized properly and given lots of attention. They do demand a lot of care and attention, and have a lifespan of 8-12 years. The dogs excavate elaborate systems of burrows in heavily grazed, flat prairie lands and create "towns" comprised of thousands of dogs.



The burrows are easily identified because of the large mound of dirt surrounding the entrance, providing a vantage point to spot approaching predators as well as flood protection. Their lifespan is typically 4-5 years in the wild. Prairie dogs have a complex social structure. The towns are composed of "wards," each of which contains "coteries" or family groups. A coterie is made up of an adult male, one to four breeding females and their offspring younger than two years of age.














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With the emergence of young prairie dogs, coteries can number as many as 40 individuals. Underground tunnels connect to special-use rooms such as bedrooms, nurseries and latrines. These tunnels are used for shelter by many other prairie wildlife species, including snakes, toads, insects, birds and mammals. Prairie dogs have a sophisticated form of communication. Humans have been able to identify up to 11 different calls. They use physical contact, such as nuzzling and kissing as well as vocalization, such as barking a warning, to communicate. Members of a prairie dog town take turns keeping watch. If the sentry sees danger he will call out a warning and the community will dive into their burrows and wait for the "all clear" call before venturing out again.

 

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