Mexican Prairie Dog

Description and biology

The Mexican prairie dog is a large, stout member of the squirrel family, closely related to ground squirrels, chipmunks, and marmots. An average Mexican prairie dog measures 12 to 16 inches (30 to 41 centimeters) in length and weighs 1.5 to 3 pounds (0.7 to 1.4 kilograms).

The animal’s buff–colored fur is tinted with black, white, red, and yellow. The tip of its short tail is black. Twice a year, its fur is shed and replaced by a new coat (a process called molting).

Like other prairie dogs, the Mexican prairie dog is active above ground during the day. It feeds on grasses and other plants. Badgers, coyotes, weasels, eagles, hawks, and snakes are its main predators.

Mexican prairie dogs live in coteries, or groups, in large burrows they have dug with several entrances. A coterie is made up of one or two adult males, one to four adult females, and a number of young.

Mating between males and females usually takes place between late January and July. After a gestation (pregnancy) period of about 30 days, a female Mexican prairie dog gives birth to a varying number of pups.

Habitat and current distribution

The Mexican prairie dog is found only in northeastern Mexico in the states of Coahuila and San Luis Potosi. The animal prefers to inhabit open plains, valleys, and plateaus at elevations between 5,200 and 7,200 feet (1,600 and 2,200 meters). Biologists (people who study living organisms) do not know the total number of Mexican prairie dogs currently in existence.

History and conservation measures

The greatest threat to the Mexican prairie dog is habitat loss. Much of its former habitat has been destroyed to create farmland to feed a growing human population. Some colonies of Mexican prairie dogs have been intentionally poisoned by humans who view the animals as pests that destroy crops and grazing land.

Since little is known about the Mexican prairie dog’s habits and biology, no specific conservation measures have been devised.