Cynomys leucurus (White-tailed Prairie Dog)

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White-Tailed Prairie Dog habitats

Habitat and Ecology

It inhabits xeric sites with mixed stands of shrubs and grasses. It lives at higher elevations and in meadows with more diverse grass and herb cover than do Black-tailed Prairie Dogs (Hoffman, in Wilson and Ruff 1999).

Young are born in underground burrows. Breeding occurs shortly after female emergence from hibernation; juveniles appear above ground in early June, 5-7 weeks postpartum; both sexes breed as one year olds. They form loose colonies.

Major predators like golden eagle and badger have been considered minor causes of mortality. It is susceptible to rapid population declines resulting from flea-borne sylvatic plague (Clark et al. 1971; see also papers by Barnes, Cully, and Fitzgerald in Oldemeyer et al. 1993).

It feeds primarily on forbs and grasses. Like C. ludovicianus, it probably prefers forbs over grasses. Its feeding habits may therefore favour the increase of good forage grasses, except in poor rangeland (Clark et al. 1971).

Individuals emerge from hibernation in the spring (males in late February or early March, two to three weeks before females). During the summer most activity occurs in the morning and late afternoon. By late August all adults are inactive. It may arouse periodically during hibernation period.

Systems
  • Terrestrial

White-tailed prairie dogs are normally found anywhere from 5000 to 10,000 ft above sea level. They usually occupy areas that are higher in elevation than other prairie dog species, such as black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus). Their habitat is dry, desert grasslands and shrublands. Sage is especially important as a form of cover.

Range elevation: 1500 to 3000 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland

Comments: This loosely colonial species inhabits open shrublands, semidesert grasslands, and open valleys. It lives at higher elevations and in meadows with more diverse grass and herb cover than do black-tailed prairie dogs (Hoffman, in Wilson and Ruff 1999). Young are born in underground burrows.

White-Tailed Prairie Dog size

Length: 37 cm

Weight: 1125 grams

Sexual Dimorphism: Males are larger than females.

Length:
Average: 366.6 mm males; 348.8 mm females
Range: 352-390 mm males; 322-375 mm females

Weight:
Average: 1,239 g males; 868 g females
Range: 850-1,675 g males; 705-1,050 g females

White-Tailed Prairie Dog distributions

This species is known from Bighorn Basin in extreme southern Montana, south across central and southwestern Wyoming into western Colorado and northeastern Utah in the United States.

White-tailed prairie dogs, like all prairie dogs, are found only in North America. White-tailed prairie dog colonies are found in Wyoming, northwest Colorado, northeastern Utah, and south central Montana. They once occurred more widely, but eradication efforts have shrunk their range. White-tailed prairie dogs thrive in dry, high altitude areas.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

endemic to a single nation

White-Tailed Prairie Dog Conservation Status


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Linzey, A.V. & NatureServe (Hammerson, G.)

Reviewer/s
Amori, G., Koprowski, J. & Roth, L. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern because it is relatively widespread, and still occurs throughout most of its historic range, although colony size and distribution are much reduced. The rate of decline in population is not sufficient to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.

History
  • 1996
    Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

White-tailed prairie dogs have so far survived many concerted extermination programs. In 1915, the Biological Survey began programs to exterminate prairie dogs. In 1923 Wyoming state law required prairie dogs to be exterminated. By the end of 1923 95 to 100% of prairie dogs in Wyoming were killed. Since 1915, millions of hectares of prairie dog land had been poisoned. Prairie dogs have survived these eradication programs and are now making a comeback because of reduced efforts to control the population and protection by national parks. Though they are extremely reduced in population from what they once were, white-tailed prairie dogs still remain a low priority for protection.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

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