Prairie dog pups born at Franklin Park Zoo
Saturday May 17, 2014
Boston, Mass. – The staff at Franklin Park Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of black-tailed prairie dog pups.
Six pups recently began to pop out of the burrows within the exhibit. The pups’ birth date is estimated to have been in early March, although it is impossible to know for sure. Pups are born blind and hairless, and do not make an appearance outside of the burrow until they are about six weeks old.
“It’s hard not to be captivated by these incredible little creatures,” said John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO. “Prairie dogs are highly social animals and it will be fascinating for our guests to watch the pups grow up and observe the social dynamics within the group.”
Black-tailed prairie dogs are not actually dogs at all. They are small, stout, tan rodents with a lightly white or buff-white belly. They have short black tails, small ears, dark eyes and long claws used for digging.
Black-tailed prairie dogs are found in short-grass prairie habitats of western North America, from southern Saskatchewan down to northern Mexico. They form complex, widespread underground burrow systems, and avoid areas of heavy brush or tall grass due to reduced visibility. Prairie dogs live in what are called towns or colonies. These colonies are further divided into territorial neighborhoods called wards. Within the wards are coteries, which are family groups comprised of a male, one to four females and offspring under two years old.
Strictly diurnal, though most active in mornings and evenings, these herbivores generally sleep in the sun in the middle of hot days and are more active when it’s cool or cloudy.
While others are out and about, at least one prairie dog will act as “look-out,” standing on a mound and watching for predators, and calling to warn others back into the tunnels with shrill bark-like whistles if one is spotted.
Zoo New England manages Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and Stone Zoo in Stoneham. Both are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Zoo New England's mission is to inspire people to protect and sustain the natural world for future generations by creating fun and engaging experiences that integrate wildlife and conservation programs, research, and education.