Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Prairie Dog

Prairie Dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) are a ground squirrel of the shortgrass prairie.  They are social animals who form colonies called "towns" that can cover hundreds of acres. Prairie dogs warn their neighbors of danger with a bark-like call.  This "bark" gives them their common name.

Ranchers' belief that prairie dogs competed with cattle for grass led to a series of policies to eradicate prairies dogs, including widespread poisoning.  These policies led to a drastic reduction in prairie dog numbers.  More recent studies suggest Prairie dog colonies can have a positive impact on grazing lands.  For details, see this history of prairie dog policy [pdf].

This post is part of a Road Trip series.

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