Black-tailed Prairie Dog

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Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) Photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prairie_dog

Prairie dogs were first described in Kansas by Zebulon Pike in 1806. They inhabit elaborate burrows in short grass prairie & mixed grass prairie in Kansas. Once abundant in Kansas they are now limited to Prairie Dog State Park, The Nature Conservancy’s Smokey Valley Ranch, Lovewell Wildlife Management Area, Cimarron National Grasslands and several private ranches in southwest and west central Kansas.  Predators include coyotes, swift fox, bobcats, red-tailed hawks, ferruginous hawks, Golden eagles, prairie rattlesnakes and the rare black-footed ferret. Black-tailed Prairie dogs are a keystone species. Mule deer, box turtles and burrowing owls are associated with prairie dog colonies. Bison, pronghorn & domestic cattle prefer foraging in black-tailed prairie dog colonies. However, animals that depend upon herbaceous cover such as mule deer and Sage-grouse tend to avoid prairie dog colonies because of their reduced vegetative cover.