Black-tailed prairie dogs in their burrow

Prairie dogs

Prairie dogs are not dogs at all but ground dwelling squirrels, whose name is derived from their dog-like barking calls. The five species are native to the grasslands and prairies of North America. These very social rodents live in often enormous, but well structured, colonies called towns, all sharing a complex system of underground burrows. When a predator approaches, alarm calls are emitted by sentries who perch on mounds of earth. Different calls are used to identifiy different types of predator.

Scientific name: Cynomys

Rank: Genus

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Map showing the distribution of the Prairie dogs taxa

The shading illustrates the diversity of this group - the darker the colour the greater the number of species. Data provided by WWF's Wildfinder.

The Prairie dogs can be found in a number of locations including: North America. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.


The following habitats are found across the Prairie dogs distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.

Temperate grassland Temperate grassland
Temperate grasslands include the prairies of North America, the steppes of Russia and the pampas of Argentina. Summers here are mild to hot and the winters can sometimes be very cold – for instance, blizzards can blanket the great plains of the United States.


Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

BBC News about Prairie dogs