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 ?
Researchers build a fence around old prairie-dog burrows and put the ferrets in when they are a couple of months old.
Additionally, they apply pesticides to the networks of burrows that make up prairie-dog towns.
Many other animals also depend on prairie-dog towns.
Clark gave a hint of the busy ecology of a prairie-dog town in his September 7, 1804, account of "a Village of Small a[n]imals that burrow in the [ground.
Once thought to number 5 billion, prairie-dog populations have declined by at least 98 percent since Lewis and Clark's day.
And the Blackfeet Indian tribe has returned nearly a hundred swift foxes to an existing prairie-dog colony on their Montana reservation--restoring a relationship first noted by Lewis: "There is a remarkable small fox which associate in large communities and burrow in the praries something like the small wolf .
Before and after the annual conference of the Outdoor Writers Association of America in South Dakota last June, members were treated to prairie-dog hunts by gun manufacturers.
So Torbit's team invited biologists from the prairie-dog states to Denver for a habitat-mapping session.
John's wife and four kids are all prairie-dog watchers too.
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.