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Prairie Dog

Black-tailed prairie dogs are all rodent and no canine. The name prairie dog comes from the sound they make: a little chirping "bark." You'll find them in dry open sites across the eastern two-thirds of Montana. They are easy to spot, because they're often standing straight at attention like miniature guards. Prairie dogs are extremely social; they dig interconnected tunnel systems that serve as homes for the entire community. These areas are called towns or colonies. As you can imagine, these tunnels are inviting for other animals—including rattlesnakes. But prairie dogs don't mind, because they've actaully developed an immunity to rattlesnake venom.

Black-tailed Prairie Dog
Cynomys ludovicianus

Prairie dogs are active most active during the daytime; although they're active year-around, they may be difficult to spot in winter. During cold spells, they may stay underground for several days. They eat mainly green grasses and forbs (broad-leafed, non-woody plants). Like most rodents, they reproduce rapidly if they're near a generous food supply. If Montana's human towns don't interest you, you can visit an extensive prairie dog town just outside of Big Timber—at a place aptly named Prairie Dog Town State Monument. (You can also find other prairie dog towns across the state, including one at Ulm Pishkun State Park near Great Falls.)