Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo’s featured animal for February is the Prairie Dog. We sat down with Mammal Keeper, Jonny Denman, to talk about these amazing creatures, and answer some questions submitted by our Facebook and Instagram followers.

Can you tell us why Prairie Dogs dig so many tunnels?

Prairie Dogs dig tunnels for many reasons. First off, it is their home. They are consistently digging to expand their home because their population is always growing. Plus, they want to have a big home just like us…kidding! They use these tunnels for other reasons too. They are used for sleeping, birthing and most importantly – escaping prey. Predators such as hawks, snakes, wolves and mountain lions try to prey on Prairie Dogs and when Prairie Dogs see them approaching they use their tunnel system for safety. Sometimes they might even use the tunnels to bury small prey alive. Finally, their tunnels make homes for other animals too and create a whole ecosystem.

Can a Prairie Dog be a pet?

It depends on what state you live in and laws are always changing, so the answer – maybe. However, I would not recommend it. They do not make great pets. To begin they can carry many diseases such as monkeypox. They also have an extremely harsh bite, plus they are very social animals and need to be with other Prairie Dogs. Instead, I recommend a hamster or a guinea pig, they make great pets.

Prairie Dog in Tunnel Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo

 

Cute Prairie Dog Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo

 

Surprised Prairie Dog Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo

 

Prairie Dog Eating Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo

 

 

Facebook user Ian asks “How did they come to be called dogs?”

Great question. Believe it or not they bark! However, their bark is not exactly like the dogs you have at home. A Prairie Dog bark is a cute chirpy sound, it is definitely worth looking up on Youtube. They use this bark to warn others about predators and to let each other know where they are.

What is their diet? Do they have a favorite food?

They are herbivorous, which means their diet consists of herbs and they eat only plants. In the wild they mainly eat grasses. Here at the zoo we feed them primarily grain, which is made out of compressed grasses. They also get veggies such as broccoli, zucchini, and sweet potatoes. Their favorite is definitely the sweet potato.

What is your favorite thing about Prairie Dogs?

I love Prairie Dogs for two primary reasons! First, they are keystone species. This means if they disappeared their whole ecosystem would collapse. They are prey, create homes for other animals, and even take down plants to keep them from overgrowing. The other reason I think these animals are so cool is their breeding time happens only once per year. It is at the beginning of winter for only one hour!

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