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The Zoo’s prairie dogs live in a colony of approximately 10 animals. Although they may all look very similar in appearance, keepers can often identify individuals by distinct physical characteristics. In some cases black or colored dye may be used to temporarily mark individuals.
We invite you to discover the Philadelphia Zoo's large colony of black- tailed prairie dogs in their habitat just in front of the Tree House. The Tree House is located just past Big Cat Falls.
Prairie dog exhibit, in front of Treehouse.
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You may observe our prairie dog colony foraging around the outdoor habitat or entering and exiting from any one of the 37 tunnel entries to their underground lodging. Activities that may be observed include: foraging, excavating new tunnels or redigging existing ones, predator patrol, or general interactions with fellow colony members.
Breeding season occurs in March/April. Gestation is 30-35 days. A typical litter size is 4-5 pups. A mother prairie dog may have 4 litters in her lifetime. The mother will nurse for up to 40 days. The pups will begin munching on solid foods while nursing and transition easily once monther weans them from the milk.
Black-tailed prairie dogs exhibit a very complex social system and are considered more social than most of the other species (except for Gunnison's prairie dog). They communicate through not only a multitude of vocalizations, but through visual cues such as posting (standing on their hind legs), tail flagging, greetings, and through olfactory cues from marking their coteries. They spend much of their time foraging for food items which include insects and grasses. The grasses around the prairie dog colonies are trimmed down very short to allow for better predator viewing.
They are 14-17 inches (350-425 cm) in length from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail.
Their weight ranges from 0.5-3 pounds (250-1500 g).
Prairie dogs are primarily herbivores feeding on grasses, seeds and roots; they will also occasionally eat insects. At the Zoo the prairie dogs receive a commercial rodent biscuit as their base diet. The enrichment portion of the diet includes a variety of roots and grass hay. The enrichment portion of the diet promotes normal feeding and foraging behaviors and contributes to the overall nutrient intake of the animal.
They range through prairies and grasslands from southern Canada, through the United States on to Northern Mexico. Some of the states they inhabit are: Montana, North and South Dakota, Texas, Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona, Nebraska and Wyoming.
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