|The Robinson Library >> Order Rodentia|
|Utah Prairie Dog
This prairie dog measures 12 to 16 inches from head to tail, with another 1.5 to 2.5 inches of tail; it weighs between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds. The coat is buff yellow or light brown in color, and the tail is tipped with white. Like other prairie dogs, it has short, rounded ears, short legs, and feet equipped with claws for burrowing.
Distribution and Habitat
As its name suggests, the Utah prairie dog is found only in the grasslands and flat plains of south central Utah.
Utah prairie dogs live in groups or families (coteries). Group members are very sociable and maintain unity through physical contact. When two prairie dogs meet, they open their mouths and touch teeth together. This "kiss" serves to distinguish a coterie member from a stranger. Strangers are usually "greeted" with bared teeth, while coterie members are groomed.
Females usually spend their entire lives in their birth coteries, while males generally move away before their first mating season.
The average Utah prairie dog town takes up less than 20 acres. Burrow tunnels are about 3 to 6 feet deep and approximately 15 feet long. Small chambers close to the surface are used to listen for above-ground activities, while deeper chambers are used for sleeping and pup-rearing. Mounds on top of the burrows may be up to 2 feet high and 10 feet in diameter; these are used as lookout stations and to prevent water from getting into the tunnels.
Breeding takes place in March. Gestation period is about 35 days. Litter size ranges from 1 to 6 pups. Pups remain underground for their first six weeks, and reach sexual maturity after their first winter. Utah prairie dogs have an average lifespan of 5 to 8 years in the wild.
Green grasses make up 70 to 95 percent of the diet, with the remainder being seeds and insects.
In 1900 it was estimated that there were 95,000 Utah prairie dogs. Habitat destruction and pest control efforts have, however, seriously reduced that number, and there are now believed to be less than 5,000 left in the wild.
|The Robinson Library
>> Order Rodentia
This page was last updated on October 17, 2018.