White Tailed Prairie Dog, Cynomys leucurus
The white tailed prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus) is located in western Colorado, western Wyoming, and in small areas in southern Montana and eastern Utah. In Wyoming, where the largest populations are located, they are colloquially called “chiselers”. The white tailed prairie dog is tannish brown in color, with a white tipped tail and large eyes. Above and below each eye is a dark cheek patch. They live in a generally higher altitude than other prairie dog species, at 5,000 to 10,000 feet. Among its predators are badgers, golden eagles, and black footed ferrets.
Due to many habitat loss issues including oil drilling and urbanization, the white tailed prairie dog only resides in about eight percent of its original territory. Shooting and a disease common to prairie dogs called Sylvatic Plague are also threatening them. Although they live in small grassland communities that are endangered by these conditions, they have a status of least concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species because they do not significantly affect the white tailed prairie dog.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Services denied petitions to grant the white tailed prairie dog protection because of insufficient data concerning their populations. Due to findings in 2007 that former deputy assistant secretary Julie MacDonald had inappropriately influenced the scientific basis of their status, that denial for protection is being reconsidered.
Image Caption: White-tailed Prairie Dog – Hutton Lake Nat’l Wildelife Refuge, Albany County Wyoming. Credit: Devonpike/Wikipedia