Prairie dog pups born at Houston Zoo

May 12, 2008 12:07:50 PM PDT
The newest arrivals at the Houston Zoo are three black-tailed prairie dogs born approximately six weeks ago at the Zoo's McGovern Children's Zoo and just now emerging from their burrow. They've been scampering around the Children's Zoo's prairie dog exhibit for a few days now and will stay fairly close to their mother for several more weeks. The best time to see the pups is late morning or mid to late afternoon.

The black-tailed prairie dog is a member of the squirrel family. Of the five species of prairie dogs in western North America, only the black-tailed prairie dog lives in the Great Plains. It's distinguishable by its black-tipped tail, brown fur, large black eyes, and short legs and sharp claws developed for digging burrows.

Prairie dogs are colonial animals that live in complex networks of tunnels with multiple openings. Colonies are easily identified by the raised-borrow entrances that give the diminutive prairie dogs some extra height when acting as sentries and watching for predators or signs of danger. The tunnels contain separate "rooms" for sleeping, rearing young and storing food.

Social animals, prairie dogs live in closely knit family groups called "coteries" which usually contain an adult male, one or more adult females, and their young offspring. Prairie dogs have a complex system of communication that includes a variety of pitched warning barks that signal different types of predators. Prairie dogs earned their name from settlers traveling across the plains who thought these warning calls sounded similar to dogs barking.

The Houston Zoo is located at 1513 North MacGregor. The Zoo is open daily during Daylight Saving Time from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. with the last ticket sold at 6 p.m. Regular admission is $10 for adults, $5.75 for seniors, $5 for children ages 2-11 and FREE for children under 2.

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