Black-tailed Prairie Dog

Cynomys ludovicianus

Order: Rodentia

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

Diet Requirements

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training

  • Prairie dogs, like all rodents, are chewers. Their almost constant chewing is what keeps their incisor teeth from growing too long. Lots of chewable enrichment items such as paper (phone books are great!), cardboard, wood, and hay should be provided.


Colony or Breeding Management


Individual Identification


Programmatic Information


Temperature Guidelines



Tips on Presentation

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

  • Prairie dogs can have a powerful bite. Bite-proof gloves should be worn by the handler at all times, and special care should be taken to avoid stressful situations where the Prairie dog is likely to bite in defense/as a way to try to get away from the handler.


Potential Messaging

  • Climate change: Desert and Dryland species have specific adaptations for the temperature and water availability in their natural habitat and may not be able to adjust to the drying effects of climate change. Hotter conditions promote wildfires. More extreme drought conditions kill plants that hold the soil in place and occasional extreme rain events wash that soil away preventing them from growing back in a process called desertification. Greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change by trapping heat in the atmosphere. Please ask guests to walk, bike, or take public transportation when possible and to reduce their use of fossil fuels when they do drive by buying a fuel economic car, carpooling, combining errands, and keeping vehicles properly tuned up and their tires properly inflated. At home and work, purchase Energy Star appliances, turn off lights when they are not in use, and use heaters and air conditioners sparingly. The principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle will also help by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions involved with the manufacture and disposal of unnecessary goods.

Acquisition Information


Comments from the Rating System

  • National Zoo: Can be a little nippy; can be very difficult to train to come when called if in underground tunnels that are inaccessible to keepers.
  • Zoo New England, Stone Zoo: can be jumpy, and can bite. This species requires experienced handlers.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat


Physical Description


Life Cycle




Threats and Conservation Status


Did you know…




Contributors and Citations


  • Nancy Romanik, Education Program Manager – Zoo New England, Stone Zoo
  • Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters


Top Photo: Joe Ravi [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons