OnFocus – Wildwood Park and Zoo announced the return of prairie dogs to the zoo. The former colony of prairie dogs passed away for reasons possibly related to a genetic abnormality.
“We know prairie dogs are a lot of visitors’ favorite so we worked very hard to bring them back!” the City of Marshfield said in a statement. “We’ve upgraded the exhibit with higher walls and “no-climb” panels to keep predators and pests out, a backup sump pump was added to keep the exhibit from flooding during large rain events, and this group of animals (obviously) bring with them new genes to alleviate the breeding bottleneck our old population was experiencing.”
Black-tailed prairie dogs are large, stout, ground-dwelling squirrels. They live in large colonies in the grasslands of central and western North America. There are five species of prairie dogs: Black-tailed, White-tailed, Gunnison’s, Mexican, and Utah. The Black-tailed prairie dog, the most common species, is the only species of prairie dog found within the vast Great Plains region of North America. Unlike the White-tailed, Gunnison’s, and the Utah prairie dogs the Black-tailed and Mexican do not hibernate.
Prairie dogs are very vocal animals. If there is danger they make a warning chirp, sending the others to their holes for cover. When it is safe, a prairie dog will leap in the air and yip. After hearing the all-clear call you will soon see the whole town yipping and jumping.
Prairie dogs are considered to be a keystone species because they benefit approximately 170 other species. A keystone species is a plant or animal that plays a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions. Prairie dogs are a food source for many animals such as coyotes, eagles, badgers and critically endangered black-footed ferrets.
Their burrows provide shelter for animals such as burrowing owls, mountain plovers, and tiger salamanders. They also help aerate and fertilize the soil, creating a greater diversity of plants to thrive.
Visit Wildwood Zoo during open hours to see the prairie dogs.
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