Black-tailed prairie dogs are usually tan in color. They have a light- colored tummy and a black-tipped tail. The tremendously social animals have an intricate system of communicating; by touch, smell as well as sounds. Black-tailed prairie dogs are an image of the grasslands. They are the most widespread of the five prairie dog species which previously subsisted the entire rocky mountain range, from Mexico to Southern Canada. Although, as human beings claimed more territory within the area, prairie dog habitation got smaller. The species has lost more than about 99% of its historical range and is now found in only 11 U.S states. (Feldhamer, G. Et al, 2OO3, p. 241)
These species were first widespread in short and varied grass prairies all through the Western mid-West comprising: Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Canada, Mexico as well as North Dakota and Wyoming. Prairie dogs construct underground communities named prairie dog towns, which might cover up any place from approximately one hundred to a hundred acres. Historically, millions of acres in Texas were covered by Black-tailed prairie dog towns. Presently, Prairie dog towns inhabit less than approximately 1% of their momentous range. (Collinge, S. & Ray, C, 2006, p.112)
Ø Keystone species:
Keystone species is a variety whose very existence contributes to a variety of life and whose extermination would accordingly lead to an extermination of other varieties of life. Keystone species aids sustain the ecology i.e. the whole community of life of which they are component. (Feldhamer, G. Et al, 2OO3, p. 241)
Reasons as to why the Black tailed Prairie Dog is a key species:
Approximately more than 200 additional wildlife varieties have been watched near or on colonies of prairie dogs. A number of them depend on prairie dogs as a source of food or for their habitation. For instance, bald and golden eagles, swift foxes, burrowing owls, black – footed ferrets, coyotes, ferruginous hawks as well as badgers. A number of plants and countless insects are as well linked with prairie dog towns. In addition, countless varieties of invertebrate and plants also rely greatly on prairie dogs and their behavior. Like a Keystone species, black-tailed prairie dogs have an impact on the prairies ecology in manifold ways: (Hoogland, J. L. 2005, p.53)
ü Their activity of burrowing does the work of churning up and loosening soil, which enhances its capability to support the life of plants.
ü Their burrowing acts as habitat to other creatures, comprising burrowing owls, badges, black-footed ferrets, insects, snakes, rabbits, as well as salamanders.
ü They play an essential role in the prairie food chain since they are a vital source of food for animals such as the endangered black-footed ferret, coyotes, eagles, badgers, hawks as well as the swift fox.
ü Their feeding and scavenging practices facilitate a more varied, nourishing, and nitrogen-rich combination of forbs (broad-leafed flora) and grasses to grow.
ü An astonishing array of animals that forage within their colonies is fascinated by the enriched flora.
The Black-tailed Prairie Dogs are a keystone species of the Prairie ecological unit given that they are a source of livelihood to other vertebrates, invertebrates as well as plants. Their very existence contributes to a variety of life and their extermination would therefore lead to an extinction of other assortments of life. Consequently, governments, environmentalist, communities as well as individuals should ensure their survival and existence since their diminishing or mere extinction will be quite detrimental to flora, fauna as well as to the ecology in general.