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.