I think it’s almost impossible to have a bad day if you spend any time watching prairie dogs! To me they are the comics of the prairies.
They can just be sitting around their burrows looking out on the world and they still make me laugh.
It looks like this one is creating a new fashion trend by combining a corset with oversized and saggy pants!
You would think something as mundane as eating grass wouldn’t be very entertaining but somehow they manage!
If that doesn’t get you smiling they become a little less subtle by doing what is called a jump-yip!
A jump-yip is a very creative term scientists use to describe when they jump up on their back legs (sometimes falling over in the process) and make a yipping noise at the same time!
If one didn’t know better they might think they are praying to a higher being and given all that they go through on a daily basis they really do have a lot to worry about. You see prairie dogs just aren’t cute little comedians, they are also a keystone species of the prairie ecosystem. They are the exclusive food of the endangered black-footed ferret and on the menu of coyotes, red and swift foxes, badgers, owls, hawks, and snakes. That’s not to mention the occasional human that shoots them or runs them over! While trying to avoid all of these predators they are constantly clipping and eating the grass, flowers and bushes to get fat enough to survive the winter. In the process they create a fertile, biodiverse, natural garden that other species like deer and pronghorn thrive off of. The burrows they build are converted into homes and hiding places for burrowing owls, ferrets, badgers, leopard frogs, prairie rattlesnakes and black widow spiders. Without them several species would die out and over a hundred more would be affected by their absence from the landscape.
Sometimes the pressure of being so important to so many gets too much and they collapse into a heap called the prairie dog pancake!
Through it all they still make sure to show their loved ones how much they care about them, even if it’s not always appreciated!
So the next time you see one, spend a few minutes watching them. I’m willing to bet that at the very least you will come away with a smile on your face and hopefully like me, an increased appreciation for all they do for the prairie landscape.