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Prairie Dog

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Prairie dogs are not dogs at all. They are small, burrowing rodents - a type of ground squirrel. Prairie dogs live in short-grass prairies and mountain plains of the western USA and Mexico.

The explorers Lewis and Clark sent a prairie dog to President Thomas Jefferson during their expedition; it was quite an oddity to them.

White-tailed prairie dogs hibernate (sleep in a state in which the body processes slow down) during the winter; black-tailed prairie dogs wake often during winter (on warmer days) to collect food.

These social animals live in groups. Black-tailed prairie dogs live in large groups with a complex of burrows (called "towns", which are subdivided into smaller "wards"); white-tailed prairie dogs live in smaller groups in scattered burrows. Both types are diurnal (most active during the day).

Anatomy: Prairie dogs are to 12-15 inches (30-38 cm) long, plus a tail that is about 3 to 4 inches (8-10 cm) long. They weigh from 2 to 4 pounds (1-2 kg). Prairie dogs have a bulky body, big eyes, a short tail, and short limbs. The fur is brown-gray, and the large eyes are black. The hands and feet have sharp, thick, black claws that are used for burrowing. Like all rodents, their incisor teeth continue to grow throughout their entire life.

Diet: Prairie dogs are mostly herbivores (plant-eaters). They eat grasses, seeds, leaves, flowers, fruit, eggs, and some insects.

Predators: Prairie dogs are hunted by many animals, including black-footed ferrets, wolves, dogs, coyotes, bobcats, foxes and some people. A prairie dog's best defense is to retreat into a burrow.

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