LEARN ABOUT PRAIRIE DOGS

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Finding the Balance Learning about Prairie Dogs Interactive Slide Show

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Why do you think some people think about prairie dogs so much? This is a prairie dog. It really isn’t a dog at all—it’s a small rodent related to the squirrel. It’s only about as big as a small football, but this little animal gives people a lot to think about!

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Part of the reason is that prairie dogs used to live in many different grassy places across the United States. There are 5 types of prairie dogs in North America. The light and dark grey shaded area is where one type of prairie dog (the black-tailed prairie dog) used to be found. What states do you see, where black-tailed prairie dogs once lived? See the black on the tip of my tail? That’s why I’m called a Black Tailed Prairie Dog!

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Prairie dogs do lots of important things for other animals. 1. They dig burrows for living in and hiding! Many animals use these burrows, such as: The black-footed ferret The burrowing owl. Look at those long legs for peeking above the grass! Rattlesnakes! Be careful, little guy! Who are these masked men? The badger

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Prairie dogs do lots of important things for other animals. 2. They are good for other animals to eat! They provide tasty food for many animals, such as: The black-footed ferret Rattlesnakes! The badger The coyote Golden eagles and other birds of prey Anybody home?

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Prairie dogs do lots of important things for other animals. 3. Grass growing in their towns is often more nutritious than grass growing without prairie dogs. Many bison eat prairie dog town grasses often. In fact, studies have shown that bison who eat these nutritious grasses are more likely to have the vitamins they need to raise their young and survive cold weather.

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Cattle ranchers and other people became worried about prairie dogs, because they eat lots of grass and can carry a disease that affects people, called the bubonic plague. Why would a rancher worry about prairie dogs eating lots of grass?

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So, people started getting rid of prairie dogs. Sometimes it was by accident, because they would plow the ground to help crops grow… Prairie dogs live in burrows under the ground. Why would a plow change a prairie dog’s home?

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And sometimes it was on purpose, because they wanted to kill the prairie dogs so that they wouldn’t eat grass. Other times, people kill prairie dogs as a “sport” by hunting them. When the prairie dog is gone from an area, how do you think these other animals might have to change their own lives? Do you think this matters to people?

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Because of our actions, only about 2% of the original area where prairie dogs once lived still has prairie dogs on them. That’s 2 places out of 100. What would 2% of all the light and dark grey areas look like? The black-footed ferret eats ONLY prairie dogs. Today this animal is endangered, with only a few hundred living on the entire planet. People are trying to help this animal make a comeback in the wild. What does it need in order to make a comeback?

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It’s important to learn more about how prairie dogs live and have babies, so that people, prairie dogs, and the animals depending on prairie dogs can live together. Now, you’ll learn more about prairie dog populations using some cool math. Work well and have fun!

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Photo credits NPS FWS FWS BLM DOE/ PNNL ARS USGS NIH

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