Pete here. Persnickety Pete that is. I am a Colorado native and local prairie dog living my best life in the Denver area. I guess you will be seeing a lot of me this year and next. I’ve been asked to represent this LLLP conference. Pretty sure they asked me because I am kind of a big deal here in the mile high city and I know my way around town. I got my nickname because I am very particular about a lot of things but Denver gets me and pharmacy is my part-time passion so I don’t mind this gig. Anyways follow me, and my adventures around this spectacular city. You may even be lucky enough to meet me at LLLP2023!
PS: Read below to know why I am important and also endangered.
Why We Picked Pete
Colorado is home to many majestic powerful animals like the buffalo, mountain lion, big horned sheep and bald eagle. These animals were considered to represent the LLLP conference but our committee voted on Pete, a Prairie Dog from the great plains of Colorado. We wanted to draw attention to the importance of the small but mighty creature and educate folks on their role in the great plains.
Located across the central and western United States are the great plains. This is the ideal habitat for the keystone species of the prairie dog to create intricate underground colonies—called prairie dog towns where their family units dwell and prairie dog networking happens. These tunnels and burrows also create shelter for jackrabbits, toads, and rattlesnakes, in addition to naturally aerating the soil. The bare patches of ground created by their grazing and burrowing attract certain insects that feed a variety of birds. And prairie dogs themselves are a key food source for everything from coyotes to hawks to endangered black-footed ferrets.
Sadly with the boom in population growth and urban development Colorado and the Denver area has seen over the past 20 years, the prairie dog communities have suffered with the loss of land.
Facts About Prairie Dogs
AUTHOR: Sarah Wade https://www.worldwildlife.org/
Prairie dogs may look a bit like actual Chicken Nuggets, but in reality they’re fast, skilled fighters armed with sharp claws and powerful teeth. Don’t mess with a Prairie dog, they fight back.
Their entire mating season is just an hour long
In contrast with popular perceptions of prairie dogs as fast-multiplying rodents, these animals actually mate just once a year, in early winter. Females go into estrus for a single hour. They then have litters of three to eight pups—usually only half of which survive their first year.
They live in tight-knit family groups called coteries
The average coterie tends to have one or two breeding males, several breeding females, and the females’ new pups. Males tend to jump from coterie to coterie—but the females stick together for life.
Their vocabulary is more advanced than any other animal language that’s been decoded
To a human ear, prairie dogs’ squeaky calls sound simple and repetitive. But recent research has found that those calls can convey incredibly descriptive details. Prairie dogs can alert one another, for example, that there’s not just a human approaching their burrows, but a tall human wearing the color blue.
They’re cousins of the squirrels in your backyard
All five species of prairie dog belong to the Scuiridae (squirrel) family. Their other biological relatives include groundhogs, chipmunks, marmots and woodchucks.
Their historical range has shrunk by more than 95%
There used to be hundreds of millions of prairie dogs in North America. European settlers traveling through the West wrote about passing through massive prairie dog colonies, some of which extended for miles. But over time, their range has shrunk to less than 5% of its original extent due to a host of pressures, including habitat encroachment by humans.