BALTIMORE, MD – Prairie dog pups are popping up at The Maryland Zoo! The Zoo’s large colony of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) is welcoming new pups above-ground this week.
Black-tailed prairie dogs are native to the Western United States. Female prairie dogs have litters of three-to-four pups each spring. The spunky, small rodents spend much of their time burrowing complex tunnel systems underground. The pups are born underground in a nesting chamber and may spend up to seven weeks underground to nurse. The pups are born blind and without hair, leaving them helpless and completely reliant on their parents to ensure their survival. Both parents care for the pups, however once they emerge from the burrows, they may nurse from any other female prairie dog.
In the 1970s, prairie dogs were critically endangered. Due to conservation efforts, they are now considered a “species of least concern.” However, they continue to face rapid habitat loss due to urban development, and declining population numbers due to eradication efforts by ranchers, and disease.
The new prairie dog pups can be seen in Prairie Dog Town, their habitat near the front entrance of the Zoo.