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Environmental sciences science fair project:
The Black-Tailed Prairie Dog




Science Fair Project Information
Title: The black-tailed prairie dog
Subject: Environmental Sciences / Endangered Species
Grade level: Primary School - Grades K-3
Academic Level: Ordinary
Project Type: Descriptive
Cost: Low
Awards: 1st place, Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair ($100)
Affiliation: Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair
Year: 2010
Description: About the black-tailed prairie dog: habitat, description, food, shelter, protection, communication, family life, movement, rescue, predators, ecosystem, status, quiz, resources.
Link: http://www.virtualsciencefair.org/2010/stepxl2
Short Background

Black-Tailed Prairie Dog

The black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), is a rodent of the family sciuridae found in the Great Plains of North America from about the USA-Canada border to the USA-Mexico border. Unlike some other prairie dogs, these animals do not truly hibernate. The Black-tailed prairie dog can be seen aboveground in midwinter. There is a report of a Black-tailed prairie dog town in Texas that covered 64,000 km2 (25,000 sq mi) and included 400,000,000 individuals. Prior to habitat destruction, this species was probably the most abundant prairie dog in central North America. This species was one of two described by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the journals and diaries of their expedition.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are generally tan in color, with a lighter colored belly. Their tail has a black tip on it, which is where their name is derived from. Adults can weigh from 1.5 to 3 lb (0.68 to 1.4 kg), males are typically heavier than females. Body length is normally from 14 to 17 in (36 to 43 cm), with a 3 to 4 in (7.6 to 10 cm) tail. They have small ears, but keen hearing, and small, dark eyes, with good vision.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are frequently exterminated from ranchland, being viewed as a pest. Their habitat has been fragmented, and their numbers have been greatly reduced. Additionally, black-tailed prairie dogs are remarkably susceptible to plague. In 2006, 8 of 8 appearances of plague in black-tailed prairie dog colonies resulted in total colony extinction. Studies in 1961 estimated only 364,000 acres (1,470 km2) of occupied black-tailed prairie dog habitat in the United States. A second study in 2000 showed 676,000 acres (2,740 km2). However, a comprehensive study between 10 states and various tribes in 2004 estimated 1,842,000 acres (7,450 km2) in the United States, plus an additional 51,589 acres (208.77 km2) in Mexico and Canada. Based on the 2004 studies, the US Fish and Wildlife Service removed the black-tailed prairie dog from the Endangered Species Act Candidate Species List in August 2004.

Black-tailed prairie dogs were the most common prairie dog species collected in the wild for sale as exotic pets, until this trade was banned in 2003 by the United States federal government. Prairie dogs in captivity at the time of the ban are allowed to be possessed under a grandfather clause, but no more may be caught, traded, or sold, and transport is only permitted to and from a veterinarian under proper quarantine procedures. The ban was officially lifted on September 8, 2008.

For More Information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black-tailed_prairie_dog

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)

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