Sunday, April 30, 2017

White Prairie Dogs, Prairie Homestead, South Dakota

The Prairie Homestead on your way to Badlands National Park on Hwy 240 have the world's only white prairie dogs. These white prairie dogs are extremely rare and are a unique species with black skin and white hair but are not classified albino. In 1966, the Ogalala Sioux Tribe was going to poison out a large area of prairie dogs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation which contained two or three white dogs. The white prairie dogs were relocated to the Prairie Homestead through cooperation with the Sioux Tribe and the Badlands National Park. They were successful in catching one white male prairie dog.  It took 30 years before most of the whole prairie dog town turned white.

There are five species of prairie dogs: black-tailed, white-tailed, Gunnison's, Mexican (endangered), and the Utah prairie dog (threatened). 

Prairie dogs are interesting little critters. Hayley and Lucy really wanted to chase them, and were actually shaking they wanted to go after them so bad.

Prairie dogs got their name from the sound that they make when danger is near, which is warning barks or yips. At one time there were millions of prairie dogs living on the plains and grasslands. They live in towns made up of underground tunnels or burrows. They are highly social and live in colonies, or towns, that contain hundreds of members, and the towns are divided into wards, then into neighborhoods. Each neighborhood is made up of family members - babies, brothers and sisters, females and one or two males.

The towns are made up of underground tunnels that connect to rooms with nurseries, bedrooms lined with dried grass, bathrooms, and a listening room, which is close to the entrance.  Here, the prairie dog listens for danger before going outside. The entrance to the prairie dog's burrow is surrounded by a pile of soil, or mound, which serves as a lookout and protects the burrow against floods. The tunnels go down up to 16 feet and can be 98 feet from one entrance to another.

The social behavior they exhibit are making social visits to their neighbors, greeting them with a sort of kiss, and grooming one another. They also communicate with each other, and it has been asserted that they use a sophisticated system of vocal communication to describe specific predators.

Once a year the female has a litter of one to six pups, which stay in the burrows for about six or seven weeks. The pups are born blind and furless and need about 30 days of close nurturing from their mothers.

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