BALTIMORE, MD – The Maryland Zoo’s thriving prairie dog community just got a little bigger. Tiny black-tailed prairie dog pups have begun popping up from their underground dens.
These small, spunky rodents spend much of their time burrowing complex tunnel systems underground. The pups are born blind and without hair, leaving them helpless and reliant on their parents. After spending as many as seven weeks nursing in an underground nesting chamber, the pups are beginning to emerge above ground, taking tentative steps to explore their habitat.
Underground, both parents care for the pups, however once they emerge from the burrows, they may nurse from any other female prairie dog.
Black-tailed prairie dogs are native to the western United States. Female prairie dogs have litters of three-to-four pups each spring. 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.
Visitors can see the new pups in the Prairie Dog Town habitat just inside the Zoo’s front gate.