Copyright

Prairie Dog Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Sarah Caughron

Sarah has a master's degree in Applied Anthropology/Archaeology and has worked in formal and informal education since 2006.

What animal barks but isn't a dog? It's a prairie dog! This lesson will teach you about what a prairie dog is and what life is like inside a prairie dog town.

What is a Prairie Dog?

As settlers crossed the Great Plains many years ago, they heard noises that sounded similar to a dog barking. Imagine traveling across the prairie in a covered wagon and hearing barking noises coming from an animal that looks like a groundhog and sounds like a dog! Today, we know these animals as prairie dogs, and they got their name from the barking heard by the settlers.

Prairie dogs are burrowing rodents.
Prairie Dog

Prairie dogs aren't dogs at all. In fact, they are a type of burrowing rodent and are closely related to a squirrel like the ones in your backyard. Prairie dogs are omnivores and will eat insects, but their favorite meals are the plants and seeds that live in the grasslands they inhabit.

In captivity, a prairie dog can live up to 8 years, but they only live about 3-5 years in the wild. Prairie dogs can weigh between 1 and 3 pounds. They stand about one-foot-tall, and you can often see them standing on their back legs just outside their den investigating a sound or searching for predators, like black-footed ferrets, eagles, and coyotes.

Prairie dogs live in close families and often groom and nuzzle each other.
Prairie dogs live in large groups.

Where do Prairie Dogs Live?

Prairie dogs live in western and central North America, and there are five species of prairie dogs that live in this range including the Utah, the Mexican, the white-tailed, the Gunnison's, and the black-tailed prairie dog. The species with the highest population is the black-tailed prairie dog. You can find this species in the Great Plains region of North America.

Prairie dogs dig tunnels and live underground. But, they don't just dig one tunnel! They dig lots of tunnels and create rooms for things, like sleeping, similar to how your house has different rooms. The tunnels they dig connect to other tunnels dug by prairie dogs in their family.

Because of the large amount of tunnels they dig, prairie dogs are considered a keystone species. This means that their tunnels provide a home for more than 150 types of other animals including mice, snakes, insects, and salamanders.

Prairie dogs make barking sounds to warn others about predators.
Prairie dogs live in underground dens.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account
Support