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Any of five species (genus Cynomys) of short-legged, terrestrial squirrels, named for their barklike call. Once abundant throughout the plains of the western U.S., part of southern Canada, and northern Mexico, they are now found mostly in isolated or protected areas. They are 12–17 in. (30–43 cm) long, including a 1–5-in. (3–12-cm) tail. Their main diet is grass. Colonies consist of well-defined territories defended by a male, several females, and young. The burrows of the black-tailed prairie dog have carefully tended funnel-shaped entry mounds that prevent flooding and serve as lookout posts. The white-tailed prairie dog inhabits higher altitudes, hibernates, and is less colonial.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on prairie dog, visit Britannica.com.