Prairie-dogs are native rodents of North America. They are named prairie-dogs because they bark like dogs and their habitat is the prairie and grassland regions. They are a keystone animal species. This designates the importance of the prairie-dog to all the inhabitants of their ecosystem. The presence of the prairie-dog determines the survival and some destruction of the flora and fauna in this region. The keystone critters play a critical role in maintaining the structure of an ecological community. Prairie-dogs make life possible for others, by creating essential conditions. Many times the prairie dogs are the food source; top menu choice of the black-footed ferret, bald and golden eagles, ferruginous hawks, owls, plovers, rattle snakes, coyotes, and badgers.
Prairie-dog survival depends on communication. The posted sentry stands up tall and chee-chee-chees the warning danger alarm. All members scurry and dive into homes down below earth’s surface.
Announcing an enemy’s presence may be signaled by the raised tail. The tail fur is puffed and waggled back and forth. This posturing is called tail-wagging it indicates the presence of a rattlesnake or when humans come into dog town. If a coyote is in the vicinity the prairie-dogs go into an upright stance called posting. The number of dogs posting is the clue to be alert for an approaching coyote predator.
Odor is used as a tool for communication. Odor signals of the prairie dogs are poorly understood by man. Marmots and prairie dogs are related, so some scientists believe prairie dogs also have cheek and anal glands. Marmots use cheek glands for scent marking when there’s a disagreement about territory or who is boss. Prairie dogs drag their rumps on the ground and the anal glands leave a smelly trail. Why do they do this? Perhaps to mark territory like the canines or dogs. But that is a question for researchers to unsnarl.
They eat and chatter, chatter, chatter all day. Wonder how they have so much to say. Do they discuss the weather? Or who’s getting fat? Whatever is the subject of their chat?