Prairie dogs are burrowing rodents that live in large colonies in the grasslands of central and western North America. There are five species of prairie dogs: black-tailed, white-tailed, Gunnison’s, Mexican and Utah. The most common species is the black-tailed prairie dog, the only species of prairie dog found within the vast Great Plains region of North America.
Prairie dogs are considered a “keystone” species because their colonies create islands of habitats that benefit approximately 150 other species. They are also a food source for many animals, including coyotes, eagles, badgers and critically endangered black-footed ferrets. Many species, like black-footed ferrets and tiger salamanders, use their burrows as homes. Prairie dogs even help aerate and fertilize the soil, allowing a greater diversity of plants to thrive.
Black-tailed prairie dogs mainly consume grasses, sedges, forbs (flowering plants), roots and seeds, though they are also known to eat insects.