The black-tailed prairie dog is an intelligent, sociable rodent that's a keystone species in the prairie ecosystem it calls home. This precocious little mammal is perfectly suited to its environment, feeding on a variety of short grasses and flowering plants and creating complex “towns” of interconnected burrows. Prairie dogs' sociable nature allows them to form close-knit family groups and work cooperatively to warn of danger through a variety of barks. It's these calls that earned the prairie dog its name — early settlers thought they sounded like the bark of a dog.

Today, black-tailed prairie dog populations have been reduced by as much as 95 percent of their historical numbers, with populations continuing to decline. This staggering figure is the result of a concerted effort to eradicate the species, since many farmers and ranchers consider prairie dogs pests. Drastic die-offs spell big trouble not only for the prairie dogs, but also for the wide variety of animals that depend on them as a critical food source, including eagles, hawks, falcons, badgers, coyotes, snakes and ferrets.

Even as the black-tailed prairie dog is being considered for Endangered Species Act protection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency is considering approving a deadly poison known as Kaput-D as a means of prairie dog control. Kaput-D causes the affected animal to lose blood through various orifices and slowly hemorrhage to death over a period of weeks. During that time, the poisoned animal is still active, spreading the poison throughout its habitat — and poisoned prairie dogs are still on predators' menu. The Center submitted comments explaining the numerous problems with Kaput-D, particularly the fact that this powerful anticoagulant would not only exterminate black-tailed prairie dogs but also poison the animals that consume them or share their habitat — including the extremely endangered black-footed ferret, the whooping crane, and a variety of other creatures. If Kaput-D is approved to kill black-tailed prairie dogs, some of America's most imperiled species could go kaput right along with them.

Get the latest on our work for biodiversity and learn how to help in our free weekly e-newsletter.

2009 Center comments on potential approval of Kaput-D
2008 90-day finding on listing petition




Press releases
Search our newsroom for the black-tailed prairie dog

The Endangered Species Act

Contact: Justin Augustine

Photo of black-tailed prairie dog courtesy Flickr/Wade Tregaskis