prairie dog

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prairie dog,

short-tailed, ground-living rodent, genus Cynomys, of the squirrelsquirrel,
name for small or medium-sized rodents of the family Sciuridae, found throughout the world except in Australia, Madagascar, and the polar regions; it is applied especially to the tree-living species.
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 family, closely related to the ground squirrels, chipmunks, and marmots. There are several species, found in the W United States and N Mexico. Prairie dogs, named for their barking cries, are 12 to 15 in. (30 to 36 cm) long, including the 1- to 4-in. (2.5 to 10 cm) tail, and have short, coarse, buff-colored fur. The black-tailed prairie dog, Cynomys ludovicianus, is found on the Great Plains. Members of this species live in connecting burrows, forming colonies, or "towns," which may extend many miles and include thousands of individuals. The entrances of the burrows are surrounded by cone-shaped mounds, which serve to keep out rainwater; the entrance shafts drop straight down for several feet. Prairie dogs spend much time maintaining the mounds by tamping down damp earth. They often sit upright on their haunches in rows, one animal on each mound; this behavior has given them the name "picket pins" in some regions. At any sign of danger the animals give a warning cry and duck down into the burrows. Rattlesnakes and burrowing owls sometimes live in the burrows and prey on young prairie dogs. Three species of white-tailed prairie dogs inhabit open or brushy valleys of the Rocky Mts; their burrows are usually less extensive than those of the black-tailed species. Prairie dogs feed mainly on grasses, but also eat insects; they hibernate in winter. Prairie dog towns were formerly much more common and extensive than now; some towns on the plains encompassed millions of individuals. Ranchers regard the animals as competitors for grazing lands and have destroyed them in large numbers. Prairie dogs are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Rodentia, family Sciuridae.

prairie dog

[′prer·ē ‚dȯg]
(vertebrate zoology)
The common name for three species of stout, fossorial rodents belonging to the genus Cynomys in the family Sciuridae; all have a short, flat tail, small ears, and short limbs terminating in long claws.

prairie dog

any of several gregarious sciurine rodents of the genus Cynomys, such as C. ludovicianus, that live in large complex burrows in the prairies of North America
References in periodicals archive ?
Because they had no experience living in the wild, they didn't know to find prairie-dog burrows to live in.
Researchers build a fence around old prairie-dog burrows and put the ferrets in when they are a couple of months old.
One at a time, they walked through the prairie-dog colony.
Because humans can't hear the difference between prairie-dog calls for "guy in orange" and "guy in green," Dr.
However, in 2008, researchers confirmed the presence of sylvatic plague in prairie-dog towns within the park, yet another threat to the prairie dogs and so to the thin strand that ties the black-footed ferret to survival.
When spring fishing begins to fall off, prairie-dog shooting picks up, and when hunting seasons begin to slow down, winter predator hunting takes off.
Prairie dogs warn their colony of approaching danger with a language of chirps that includes more than 100 "words," according to Northern Arizona University researcher Con Slobodchikoff, who discovered this prairie-dog language.
Perched on an observation tower near a prairie-dog colony, Slobodchikoff uses a powerful microphone, tape recorder, and video camera to capture prairie dog sights and sounds.