Fun Black-tailed Prairie Dog Facts For Kids

Abhijeet Modi
Feb 21, 2024 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Spandana Kantam
Read interesting black-tailed prairie dog facts to know more about this endangered species.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.5 Min

The black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) is a stout and sturdy group of rodent. Distant cousins of squirrels, Cynomys ludovicianus are the endearing sights to espy. Black-tailed prairie dogs are often categorized amongst the most social of mammals. Black tailed prairie dogs are found to be adept at conveying incredibly descriptive details to their own kind with the help of various vocal calls; for instance sensing predators and passing on the required signal to alert the members of the community.

In order to stay safe from predators, these creatures reside in a large colony and burrows underground in grasslands or mountain regions with their pups and young. Black-tailed prairie dog hibernate for up to six months in their burrows. They face threats from predators like black-footed ferrets who see them as food. Read along to find some interesting facts about the black-tailed prairie dogs. Efforts for their conservation are being organized by American Prairie Foundation. Afterwards, do check out some more interesting articles on gundi and porcupine as well.

Black-tailed Prairie Dog Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a black-tailed prairie dog?

Black-tailed prairie dogs or cynomys ludovicianus are a group of rodents; animals characterized by the presence of ever growing incisors. These rodents are members of the Sciuridae family. Black-tailed prairie dogs are diurnal animals (active during the day), however their functioning is limited by a number of factors such as snow, rain and a rise in temperature above 100 °F (38 °C).

What class of animal does a black-tailed prairie dog belong to?

Black-tailed prairie dog (scientific name Cynomys ludovicianus) belongs to class mammlia; that is organisms that are characterized by the presence of mammary glands present for the nourishment of young ones. They prefer to live in an underground burrow as their habitat, which is in the ground and sometimes near grass.

How many black-tailed prairie dogs are there in the world?

Black-tailed prairie dogs prefer to burrow in an underground colony to be safe from predators. These animals are mostly found in the wild grasslands of America but there is no exact number on the number of prairie dogs. But as per IUCN Red List of Endangered Species and the United States Endangered Species Act, their conservation status is of least concern, so there are no concerns as to their survival.

Where does a black-tailed prairie dog live?

Black-tailed prairie dogs are common residents of the Plains of Northern America. Reflecting on their historical distribution, they were dispensed over larger regions such as parts of  Montana, Wyoming,  Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and North and South Dakota. However since, there has been a decline in their overall distribution in North America. They live in an underground colony with other black-tailed prairie dogs.

What is a black-tailed prairie dog's habitat?

The habitats of black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) includes biomes such as open, arid and short-grass plains, near the vegetation of sagebrush, and prickly pear, such as coulee bottomlands. They are also found near river flats.

Who do black-tailed prairie dogs live with?

Black-tailed prairie dogs are a group of socializing rodents. These organisms are known to exist in North America in black-tailed prairie dog colonies called coterie. Each coterie comprises of a male, one to four females and their pups. Beside that the Cynomys ludovicianus are amiable around humans as well, if trained properly.

How long does a black-tailed prairie dog live?

The average lifespan of American black-tailed prairie dogs is about five to eight years. The female prairie dogs have a longer lifespan than their male counterparts. Prairie dogs live in black-tailed prairie dog colonies spread across the mountains and great plains of the United States.

How do they reproduce?

The reproductive cycles in the black-tailed prairie dog which includes the maturity age for mating, litter size, juvenile growth and survival rate, varies widely mainly depending on the availability of food. The general  breeding season in for the Cynomys ludovicianus extends from February to April. During this period, the estrus cycle in females takes place just for a day, when they become sexually receptive. The breeding system in these rodents is usually polygynous (one male mating with multiple females). A number of characteristics are noticed in the black-tailed prairie dog during the breeding season such as the ingress of a common burrow by the mating members, assemblage and transportation of nesting material by male Cynomys ludovicianus. Post fertilizations follows an average gestation period of about 33-38 days. Ensuring gestation, the parturition in black-tailed prairie dogs is generally underground, with an average litter size of one to eight newborns n the black-tailed prairie dog habitat. The infants exhibit altricial properties; that is they are completely dependent on the parents for care and feeding, as they're born in an under developed stage with closely shut eyes and naked skin, so burrows in the ground are important to protect them.

What is their conservation status?

Though there has been a prominent decline in the populations of the black-tailed prairie dogs and white tailed prairie dogs, in comparison to their historical existence, they are as yet categorized as least concerned by IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act. Therefore it can be safely said that the populations of Cynomys ludovicianus is quite stable.

Black-tailed Prairie Dog Fun Facts

What do black-tailed prairie dogs look like?

A member of Class Mammalia, the body of these rodents is characteristically covered with hair which therefore grants them a fury appearance. The Cynomys ludovicianus possess large beady and black eyes, small ears located in the vicinity of the head and long tail with black hair on the tips. They are short-legged and rotund rodents. The male members of the family are larger and heavier than the female. The usual shading in black-tailed prairie ranges from tan or black to brown with white patches on the abdomen. These animals are known to undergo molting twice in a year with each molt resulting in a faintly different pelage shadings. The females possess about eight mammary glands on their bodies designed anatomically for the nourishment of young ones. The black-tailed prairie dogs have long claws that's beneficial in digging.

Black-tailed Prairie Dog

How cute are they?

With compact, stout and hair- coated bodies, large beady eyes, these burrowing rodents are quit adorable.  

How do they communicate?

Black-tailed prairie dogs are quite social and therefore exhibit a variety of methods for communicating. This categoryof ground squirrel manifests about 12 different kinds of calls, including the jump-yip, anti-predatory call etc. Besides diverse oral communications the Cynomys ludovicianus device visual, acoustic, olfactory and chemical (sniffing other individuals and relaying some chemical communication) as well as tactile (nuzzling, grooming, playing) channels for communicating.

How big is a black-tailed prairie dog?

The average length of black-tailed prairie dogs ranges between 14-17 in. These rodents possess long tails, with an average length of about 3-4 in.

How fast can a black-tailed prairie dog run?

One of the most interesting black-tailed prairie dog adaptations is their hind legs which allow it to run at a decent speed. Though, the exact running speed is not yet known.

How much does a black-tailed prairie dog weigh?

The average weight of black-tailed prairie dogs is found to be about 1.5-3.0 lb. The male members are haywire then the female peers.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no distinct names allotted to the members of Cynomys ludovicianus on the basis of their sex. The males are generally called the dogs while females are called bitches. However a family troop is referred to as coterie.

What would you call a baby black-tailed prairie dog?

The infants of the black-tailed prairie dogs are referred to as pups, offspring or juveniles.

What do they eat?

The black-tailed prairie dog diet includes the herbivores mode (plants and its products) of nutrition; though these animals are omnivores. These rodents survive on plants and plant products such as roots of grasses and weeds, leaves as well as stems; whereas small insects like grasshoppers, bugs, cutworms, and beetles are also preferred occasionally. The water needs of these organisms is fulfilled by the moisture content in the leafy vegetable plants. The black-tailed prairie dog food requirements depend largely on their availability, for instance the rodent's favorite diets in summer months includes blue gamma, scarlet globemallow, wheatgrass, Russian thistle buffalo grass, and sedges. Whereas in the winter season brings forth a scheduled diet of various underground roots, plains prickly pear, saltbush, and sagebrush.

Are they aggressive?

Though generally a group of highly social rodents, these animals can be occasionally aggressive, for instance during continuous disturbance or in case of threatening circumstances from predators like black-footed ferrets. The female members of black-tailed prairie dogs however are comparatively more aggressive particularly during neonatal care.

Would they make a good pet?

Black-tailed prairie dogs do make wonderful pets. Eventually these groups of rodents are gaining pace in terms of their popularity as pets. Characteristically Cynomys ludovicianus are agile, robust and jovial. They can be domesticated and socialized easily if trained properly. However these rodents as pets do demand sufficient attention and care. As their conservation status of least concern, there are no restrictions on having them as pets.

Did you know...

Despite their small size and endearing looks black-tailed prairie dogs can be fierce fighters under threatening situations, thanks to their sharp dentition and claws.

The close-knit family of these rodents entitled as coteries usually consist of a number of females, a few males and new born infants. While the female Cynomys ludovicianus are known to stick together for life, the male members are quite the wanderers.

The black-tailed prairie dogs, belonging to the family Sciuridae, are in fact distant relatives of squirrels.

In the year 2000, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service categorized this species as endangered but eventually after investigation, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service updated the conservation status of black tailed prairie dogs to that of least concern.

Black-footed ferrets are the biggest threat to prairie dog colonies.

The largest recognized prairie dog habitation was known to contain about 400 million Cynomys ludovicianus. Eventually with time, there was a decline in numbers due to a variety of factors.

What did Lewis and Clark nickname the black-tailed prairie dog?

In 1804,  Lewis and Clark  nicknamed the black tailed prairie dog as a barking squirrel.

What happened to the black-tailed prairie dog in 1999?

In light of the declining population of the black-tailed prairie dog, a petition was requested by the National Wildlife Federation (National Wildlife Federation 1998). It mainly focused on alarming conditions of the declining population rates of black-tailed prairie dogs and appealed mainly on emergency listing of these mammals under threatened species.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including Chinese hamster, or elephant shrew.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our black-tailed prairie dog coloring pages.

Black-tailed Prairie Dog Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Grasshoppers, cutworms, bugs, and beetles

What Type of Animal were they?


Average Litter Size?


How Much Did They Weigh?

2-2.6 lb

What habitat Do they Live In?

grassland habitats, shortgrass, sagebrush steppe, desert grassland

Where Do They Live?

american grasslands and great plains

How Long Were They?

11-14 in

How Tall Were They?








Scientific Name

Cynomys ludovicianus

What Do They Look Like?

Stout, small, black-tipped long tails

Skin Type


What Are Their Main Threats?

animals, ailments

What is their Conservation Status?

Least Concern
We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

Abhijeet Modi picture

Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

Read full bio >
Read the DisclaimerFact Correction