Blacktail Prairie Dog Town
One of the park's prairie dog towns is located 1.2 miles (1.9 km) north of the visitor center at the junction of U.S. Highway 385 and S.D. 87.
The blacktail prairie dog is one of the mammals characteristic of the North American prairie. From this view, visitors see the mounds that the each prairie dog builds as both a dam to protect its burrow and a sentinel post. Prairie dogs eat grass and keep it cropped short so that they may have an unobstructed view of approaching predators. At this prairie dog town as well as others in the park, the landscape is generally flat, offering the prairie dogs large vistas.
Prairie dogs are very important for the ecology of the mixed grass prairie. The habits of these rodents improve conditions in parts of the grassland thus attracting pronghorn and bison to the dog towns. The short cropping of the grass makes it more nutritious for bison.
Please observe the prairie dogs from a safe distance and please do not feed prairie dogs. Walking out on the town tramples their food supply. Prairie dogs can inflict a painful bite and carry fleas that can cause plague. Also, prairie rattlesnakes and black widow spiders use prairie dog burrows for shelter.
Did You Know?
Elk were the most widely distributed member of the deer family in North America and spread from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Mexico to northern Alberta. Elk began to disappear in the eastern United States in the early 1800s. More...