Dogs, Ferrets, and Toads in the Wyoming Plains
This report is about three species that inhabit the Wyoming plains. One of these species is the black tailed prairie dog which inhabits nearly all of the U.S. and was at one time considered to be endangered. The second is the black footed ferret which was thought to be extinct until a small colony of these little predators was discovered on a ranch near Meeteetse Wyoming. The third and final animal mentioned in this report is the Wyoming toad. These toads are becoming increasingly scarce in the wild.
Cynomys ludovicianus or the black tailed prairie dog is actually a ground squirrel and not at all a dog. Black tailed prairie dogs can get up to 388mm long and weigh in around 1-2 kg.
These prairie dogs primarily reside on short grass prairies. They usually avoid areas of heavy brush and tall grass possibly because visibility is considerably reduced. (The Mammals of Texas) These prairie dogs live in burrows which may reach lengths of up to 100 ft and depths of 15ft and may consist of a latrine, nursery, nesting chamber, and listening post. (San Francisco Zoo) Prairie dog colonies are made up of a few or many “wards” which are spread out from one another. Each ward is composed of several small families which are called “coteries”. These coteries are harems of two to eight females that are defended by a single dominant male. (The Mammals of Texas) One prairie dog town, observed at the turn of the century, is said to have extended in a strip approximately 160 km wide and 400 km long on the high plains of Texas. This “city” had an estimated population of 400 million prairie dogs. (The mammals of Texas)
Prairie dogs have a sophisticated communication system used to warn others of danger or identify other coterie members. An alarm call is sounded to warn of a predator: a sharp bark, followed by a quick descent into the burrow. When the predator is gone, a special “all clear” call informs family members that the danger is over. (San Francisco Zoo)
The prairie dog is popularly characterized as being a nuisance by farmers and ranchers. This is mainly due to the fact that they can significantly reduce stands of grass in livestock pastures. Some stockmen claim that the removal of prairie dogs has had some direct association with the undesirable spread of brush. This has had detrimental effects on the livestock industry which far outweighs the damage prairie dogs might do. (San Francisco Zoo)
Mustela nigripes or the black footed ferret is a long yet small predator. The female black footed ferret ranges in weight from 645 to 850 grams, while the weight of males ranges from 915 to 1125 grams. These ferrets range in length from 380 to 600mm (head and body). (Mustela nigripes)
The black footed ferret mainly resides in the grasslands of North America just as the black tailed prairie dog. Each ferret requires about 100-120 acres of space upon...