Have you ever been interested in knowing about Prairie Dogs? And have you ever wondered why are they called so? They do not have anything common in appearance with an actual dog. Then why the name? The kids must have also wondered about these facts.
So here we are, with some mind-blowing facts about prairie dogs for kids that will give you some interesting insights about prairie dogs.
11 Most Interesting & Fun Facts about Prairie Dogs for Kids
It must be shocking for you to know for the first time that the Prairie Dogs are not actual dogs in the real sense. Nor are they canines for that matter. So let us find out about them and how are they different from the common dogs.
1. The French named them “Dogs”
The prairie dogs are very little animals of the squirrel family and they have nothing in common with an actual dog. The French explorers have named them “dogs”.
The reason behind this was the barking sound they often make like a dog to give a call of alarm. They are rodents who burrow into the ground to make their habitats. They are a type of ground squirrel.
2. Prairie dogs are Herbivorous
Unlike real dogs, prairie dogs consume a herbivorous diet. Although they often eat certain kinds of insects as well. They are commonly known to be herbivorous. They eat grasses of different species, small seeds, roots, fruits, buds.
During the falls, they feed on broadleaf forbs. And in winter, the pregnant females and the lactating ones often turn to the consumption of snow to increase the water supply in their bodies.
3. There are five species of them found
The prairie dogs go by the scientific name of Cynomys. There are five species altogether of the prairie dogs that are found in the world. These are black-tailed, white-tailed, Utah, Mexican, and Gunnison’s.
They are found in large numbers in Mexico, Canada, and the United States. They are native to the grasslands of North America.
4. They are great saviours of nature and agriculture
As we know that they are burrowing rodents. Their mould building often facilitates grass development. They are also responsible for the renewal of the topsoil in the areas where they live.
They are the reason behind the increased fertility of the soil which helps in agriculture. Their tunnels also help in increasing the level of the groundwater table. Their habitats have been destroyed by the farmers and urban development.
5. They are very strong
We should not judge them by their size. These little creatures are really fast and active. They are competent fighters as well. The strong teeth along with the sharp claws are their armour.
They can attack quickly and dangerously if they sense any danger to them or their settlements. They are protective of their families and settlements.
6. These are little daredevils
They often reside in environmentally prone areas. Their habitats are often affected by natural calamities such as hail storms, prairie fires, blizzards, droughts and floods.
Their burrows provide them protection from these disasters. The burrows also help them control their body temperature according to the seasons.
7. They are social creatures
The prairie dogs live in tight-knit families. Their family groups are known as coteries. Their habitats are called colonies and the colonies spread into wide areas of land.
They often show behaviours like kissing and cuddling to show affection to their family members. They do not kiss the members of the other families. They cannot survive alone for long.
8. They are highly gifted
It is very interesting to know that these prairie dogs possess the refined vocabulary to communicate among themselves. They are highly descriptive and can convey the message of someone approaching their family members in minute details.
These include the shape, height and even the colour of one’s clothes who is approaching them. Though, they are not known to distinguish among a large range of colours.
9. They have relatives in your backyard
They all look similar to each other and shares many features such as looks, body colour, and some of the behaviours as well.
10. Petting prairie dogs is difficult
We know for a fact now that prairie dogs are social and highly active. They are diurnal like most mammals meaning that they stay active during the daytime and sleep at night.
They need continuous attention. They can prove to be great pets only if the owner is devoted and is knowledgeable enough to take care of their needs and demands.
They can fall sick or get depressed like humans if not provided with quality time and attention in captivity. They can be lease-trained and might respond to their name-calling too.
11. Prairie dogs and diseases
These little rodents are prone to diseases such as the plague that caused the Black Death across Europe. They are also susceptible to respiratory diseases. They can also build bacterial and parasite diseases as well.
They act as the agents or carriers for many diseases too. The plague is considered fatal to their population as it can put an end to the wide colonies of the prairie dogs.
Also want to know about some other cute looking creatures, read these articles:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
They give out warning calls which often sound like the barking of dogs. Hence, named so by the French explorers.
They are known as pups. The baby prairie dogs are better pets than the adult ones as they prove to be better trainees. Although, they demand more amount of attention.
Prairie dogs are mammals who mate once a year during winters. Four to five pups are born to a female prairie dog at a single litter. The mothers build them a nest made of grass.
They are an important part of the food chain. They provide food for predators like foxes and coyotes. They also help in increasing the soil fertility and water table.
They feed mainly on grass, seeds, fruits, some insects, buds, roots, broadleaf forbs during falls, and snow during pregnancy and lactation period to increase water supplement.
Although they are known to eat some insects, they are majorly classified as herbivores. Their diet majorly consists of grass, roots, seeds, and other parts of plants.
The average weight of an adult male or a female prairie dog ranges from 1.5 – 3.5 lbs or 17.6 – 52.9 ounces. Although during winters, they lose some 20% of their overall body weight due to a drop in metabolism and body temperature.
They can have a height of 15 – 18 cm (6 – 7 inches) with a body length ranging between 31 – 41 cm (12 – 16 inches).
They can distinguish between two of the three primary colors and are popularly known to have a dichromatic vision.
They live in the grasslands of Mexico, Canada, and the United States. They build habitats by burrowing land. They build colonies spread across large areas of land.
The prairie dog tunnels can be as deep as three to six feet and the diameter varies from four to eight inches.
In the wilds or on their own, they can live up to 3 – 5 years. But in captivity, with good care, they can survive 8 – 10 years. They need proper care and commitment from expertise in captivity.
They usually survive 3 – 5 years but can live 8 – 10 years as domestic pets under proper observation and supervision from a devoted owner.
The best and inexpensive way to get rid of prairie dogs is to spread some bubble gum in their habitat. They can not digest it and eventually die.
The female prairie dogs can have three to eight pups in a single litter. Although, only half of them survive the first year.
They often scream to alarm their family members about the approaching danger or the presence of a predator. They often stand straight to look out for dangers.
They are not known to eat their dead as they are classified as herbivores. They often sniff around the dead bodies to ensure death.
They often keep their distance from humans. They do carry some diseases fatal to humans but they often die themselves quickly before spreading them.
So these were some prairie dogs facts for kids. We hope that you had a happy time reading the article and gained some insights about the cousins of the squirrels.