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Prairie Dogs

Posted by Susan Stoltz on


Yep, I can get really enthusiastic about prairie dogs. Just ask anybody at the zoo. If someone asks a question about them my answer can soon turn into a dramatic monologue. 

These are amazing little animals, and we, as humans, need to understand their significance in our environment. That's a fancy way of saying - these guys are really important. In fact, they're a keystone species (a species on which other species in an ecosystem largely depend, such that if it were removed the ecosystem would change drastically). Not only are they almost solely responsible for re-seeding our prairies (without them our nation would look like the Sahara Desert from Northern Mexico to the Canadian border), they also contribute to the water table under the prairie by funneling rain water down special tunnels to the aquifer! They have an incredible language of nearly 100 words and, believe it or not, can put together short sentences of two words. Not only are they adorable, they help other animals by way of homes in their tunnels for tortoises, burrowing owls, snakes, etc, they're an important part of the food chain for animals that are quickly going extinct, and their poop contributes to the nutritious value of the prairie grass that bison, elk, deer, and antelope need.

Without human help, however, they are rapidly losing ground with survival. They are victims of urban sprawl and loss of habitat, misunderstanding by the masses, target practice, and a low survival rate of offspring, and we are losing them faster than we can ever replace them. In the last century their population has decreased by nearly 95%.

I'm clearly a prairie dog fan, and yes, I even have socks with prairie dogs on them. If you want to learn more about them here's a great resource: Defenders of Wildlife at

And with that dear friends I leave you with a poem:

Prairie dogs are awesome,
As you can clearly see.
They’re also way important
To all in some degree.
Small fuzzy rodents
They breed just once a year.
They’re also used as targets
To practice shoot I fear.
They’re losing all their habitat
For houses, lots and what-not.
Wouldn’t it be such a shame
If we lost them with no forthought?
So save the little prairie dog!
Let’s keep them safe and well.
So our prairie land stays where it is,
And we never say farewell!

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