Cynomys leucurus - Merriam, 1890
White-tailed Prairie Dog
Other English Common Names: white-tailed prairie dog
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Cynomys leucurus Merriam, 1890 (TSN 180185)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.105950
Element Code: AMAFB06020
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Mammals - Rodents
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Mammalia Rodentia Sciuridae Cynomys
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 1993. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Second edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. xviii + 1206 pp. Available online at: http://www.nmnh.si.edu/msw/.
Concept Reference Code: B93WIL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Cynomys leucurus
Taxonomic Comments: Cynomys parvidens has been regarded as a subspecies of Cynomys leucurus by some authors. Thorington and Hoffmann (in Wilson and Reeder 2005) recognized the two taxa as distinct species.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G4
Global Status Last Reviewed: 06Nov1996
Global Status Last Changed: 06Nov1996
Rounded Global Status: G4 - Apparently Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N4 (05Sep1996)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Colorado (S4), Montana (S1), Utah (S3), Wyoming (S3)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Range extends from the Bighorn Basin in extreme southern Montana southward across central and southwestern Wyoming into western and north-central Colorado and eastern Utah. See Goodwin (1995) for a review of the biogeographic history of prairie dogs.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: Range extends from the Bighorn Basin in extreme southern Montana southward across central and southwestern Wyoming into western and north-central Colorado and eastern Utah. See Goodwin (1995) for a review of the biogeographic history of prairie dogs.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single nation

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States CO, MT, UT, WY

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: Sechrest, 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CO Garfield (08045), Gunnison (08051), Jackson (08057), Mesa (08077), Moffat (08081), Rio Blanco (08103), San Miguel (08113)
MT Carbon (30009)
UT Carbon (49007), Daggett (49009), Duchesne (49013), Emery (49015), Grand (49019), Rich (49033), Summit (49043)*, Uintah (49047), Utah (49049)*
WY Albany (56001), Big Horn (56003), Carbon (56007), Converse (56009), Crook (56011), Fremont (56013), Goshen (56015), Hot Springs (56017), Laramie (56021), Lincoln (56023), Natrona (56025), Niobrara (56027), Park (56029), Sublette (56035), Sweetwater (56037), Uinta (56041), Washakie (56043)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
10 Clarks Fork Yellowstone (10070006)+, Upper Wind (10080001)+, Little Wind (10080002)+, Popo Agie (10080003)+, Muskrat (10080004)+, Lower Wind (10080005)+, Badwater (10080006)+, Upper Bighorn (10080007)+, Nowood (10080008)+, Greybull (10080009)+, Big Horn Lake (10080010)+, Dry (10080011)+, North Fork Shoshone (10080012)+, South Fork Shoshone (10080013)+, Shoshone (10080014)+, Middle Fork Powder (10090201)+, South Fork Powder (10090203)+, Upper Cheyenne (10120103)+, Lance (10120104)+, Angostura Reservoir (10120106)+, Upper Belle Fourche (10120201)+, North Platte Headwaters (10180001)+, Upper North Platte (10180002)+, Pathfinder-Seminoe Reservoirs (10180003)+, Medicine Bow (10180004)+, Little Medicine Bow (10180005)+, Sweetwater (10180006)+, Middle North Platte-Casper (10180007)+, Upper Laramie (10180010)+, Lower Laramie (10180011)+*, Horse (10180012)+, Cache La Poudre (10190007)+
14 Colorado headwaters-Plateau (14010005)+, Tomichi (14020003)+, Westwater Canyon (14030001)+, Upper Dolores (14030002)+, Upper Colorado-Kane Springs (14030005)+, Upper Green (14040101)+, New Fork (14040102)+, Upper Green-Slate (14040103)+, Big Sandy (14040104)+, Bitter (14040105)+, Upper Green-Flaming Gorge Reservoir (14040106)+, Blacks Fork (14040107)+, Muddy (14040108)+, Vermilion (14040109)+, Great Divide closed basin (14040200)+, Lower Yampa (14050002)+, Little Snake (14050003)+, Muddy (14050004)+, Upper White (14050005)+, Lower White (14050007)+, Lower Green-Diamond (14060001)+, Ashley-Brush (14060002)+, Duchesne (14060003)+, Strawberry (14060004)+, Lower Green-Desolation Canyon (14060005)+, Price (14060007)+, Lower Green (14060008)+, San Rafael (14060009)+, Muddy (14070002)+
16 Upper Bear (16010101)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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General Description: White-tailed prairie dogs have a gray to yellowish brown upper body, dark cheek patches, and a whitish to grayish tip on the short tail; total length up to about 40 cm.
Reproduction Comments: Breeding occurs shortly after female emergence from hibernation. Juveniles appear above ground in late May or June, 5-7 weeks postpartum. Both sexes breed as 1-year-olds.
Ecology Comments: Forms loose colonies. One study estimated average density at 3.2/ha.

Major predators like golden eagle and badger have been considered minor causes of mortality.

Susceptible to rapid population declines resulting from flea-borne sylvatic plague (Clark et al. 1971; see also papers by Barnes, Cully, and Fitzgerald in Oldemeyer et al. 1993).

White-footed prairie dogs are one of the important food resources for the endangered black-footed ferret.

Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Grassland/herbaceous, Shrubland/chaparral
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil
Habitat Comments: This loosely colonial species inhabits open shrublands, semidesert grasslands, and open valleys. It lives at higher elevations and in meadows with more diverse grass and herb cover than do black-tailed prairie dogs (Hoffman, in Wilson and Ruff 1999). Young are born in underground burrows.
Adult Food Habits: Herbivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: Feeds primarily on forbs and grasses. Like C. ludovicianus, probably prefers forbs over grasses. Its feeding habits may therefore favor the increase of good forage grasses, except in poor rangeland (Clark et al. 1971).
Adult Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Immature Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: The colder months are spent in hibernation. Individuals emerge from hibernation beginning in late winter (late February-March). Males tend to emerge 2-3 weeks before females. Daily activity may vary seasonally.During the summer, most activity occurs in the morning and late afternoon. By late August all adults are inactive. Individuals may arouse periodically during hibernation period.
Length: 37 centimeters
Weight: 1125 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Management Requirements: See Oldemeyer et al. (1994) for information on the management of prairie dog complexes for the reintroduction of black-footed ferret.
Monitoring Requirements: See Menkens et al. (1990) for information on estimating density using visual counts. See Menkens and Anderson (in Oldemeyer et al. 1993) for information on mark-recapture and visual counts for estimating population size.
Management Research Needs: See Miller et al. (in Oldemeyer et al. 1993) for a list of questions for management and research, related to ferret reintroduction, in priority order in each category of disease, habitat management, population dynamics, and public relations.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence of a prairie dog town or town complex at a given location.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Home ranges small; for closely related C. PARVIDENS, 1.2 to 8.2 hectares (Crocker-Bedford and Spillett (1977). Separation distance set at 1 kilometer minimum for unsuitable habitat and raised to 5 kilometers for suitable habitat, to reflect dispersal abilities.
In spring individual yearling males and adult females of C. LUDOVICIANUS disperse an average 2.4 kilometers (Garrett and Franklin 1988); dispersal in that species is generally less than 8 kilometers (Knowles 1985).

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .2 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Based on a typical home range of 4 hectares for the closely-related C. PARVIDENS (Crocker-Bedford and Spillett 1977).
Date: 03Aug2001
Author: Cannings, S.
Population/Occurrence Viability
Help
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
Help
Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 01Feb2010
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 01Feb2010
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Andersen, M.D. 2011. HUC10-based species range maps. Prepared by Wyoming Natural Diversity Database for use in the pilot WISDOM application operational from inception to yet-to-be-determined date of update of tool.

  • Andersen, M.D. 2011. Maxent-based species distribution models. Prepared by Wyoming Natural Diversity Database for use in the pilot WISDOM application operational from inception to yet-to-be-determined date of update of tool.

  • Armstrong, D.M. 1972. Distribution of Mammals in Colorado. Monograph of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas. University of Kansas Printing Service, Lawrence. 415 pp.

  • BEAUVAIS, G.P. 1999. VERTEBRATES OF CONSERVATION CONCERN ON THE PITCHFORK RANCH. Unpublished report for the Pitchfork Ranch by WYNDD-University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY.

  • Beauvais, G. P. 1999. The status of rare vertebrates in the Bighorn landscape. Unpublished report prepared by WYNDD for the Wyoming Field Office of The Nature Conservancy.

  • Belitsky, D.W. 1981. Small mammals of the Salt Wells-Pilot Butte Planning Unit. BLM Rock Springs District.

  • Burns, J.A., D. L. Flath and T. W. Clark. 1989. On the structure and function of white-tailed prairie dog burrows. Great Basin Nat. 49:517-524.

  • Clark, T.W. 1977. Ecology and ethology of the white-tailed prairie dog (Cynomus leucurus). 103 pp.

  • Clark, T.W., R.S. Hoffmann, and C.F. Nadler. 1971. Cynomys leucurus. Mammalian Species, 7:1-4.

  • Clark, Tim W. and Mark R. Stromberg. 1987. Mammals in Wyoming. University Press of Kansas. Lawrence, Kansas.

  • Colorado Division of Wildlife. 2002 (September). Report of acreages of active colonies for Gunnison's prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni) and white-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus). 2 pages.

  • Crocker-Bedford, D. C., and J. J. Spillett. 1977. Home ranges of Utah prairie dogs. Journal of Mammalogy 58:672-73.

  • Flath, D. L. 1979. Status of the white-tailed prairie dog in Montana. Proc. Mont. Acad. Sci. 38:63-67.

  • Foresman, K. R. 2001. The Wild Mammals of Montana. American Society of Mammalogists, Lawrence, Kansas. Special Publication No. 12. 278 pp.

  • Garrett, M. G., and W. L. Franklin. 1988. Behavioral ecology of dispersal in the black-tailed prairie dog. J. Mamm. 69:236-250.

  • Goodwin, H. T. 1995a. Pliocene-Pleistocene biogeographic history of prairie dogs, genus Cynomys (Sciuridae). Journal of Mammalogy 76:100-122.

  • Hollister, N. 1916. A systematic account of the prairie-dogs. North American Fauna 40:1-37.

  • Jones, J. K., Jr., D. M. Armstrong, R. S. Hoffmann, and C. Jones. 1983. Mammals of the Northern Great Plains. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska.

  • Jones, J. K., Jr., R. S. Hoffman, D. W. Rice, C. Jones, R. J. Baker, and M. D. Engstrom. 1992a. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 1991. Occasional Papers, The Museum, Texas Tech University, 146:1-23.

  • Keinath, D.A. 2004. Species assessment for White-Tailed Prarie Dog (Cynomys leucurus) in Wyoming. Report prepared for USDI Wyoming Bureau of Land Management by Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, Laramie, Wyoming.

  • Keinath, D.A. 2005. Supplementary mammal inventory of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. Unpublished report prepared by Wyoming Natural Diversity Data Base for USDI National Park Service Greater Yellowstone Inventory and Monitoring Program Bozeman, Montana.

  • Knowles, C. 2002. Status of white-tailed and Gunnison's prairie dogs. National Wildlife Federation, Missoula, MT, and Environmental Defense, Washington, D.C. 30 pp.

  • Knowles, C. J. 1985. Observations on prairie dog dispersal in Montana. Prairie Nat. 17:33-40.

  • Long, C.A. 1965. The mammals of Wyoming. University of Kansas Publications, Museum of Natural History 14: 493-758.

  • Menkens, G. E., Jr., D. E. Biggens, and S. H. Anderson. 1990. Visual counts as an index of white-tailed prairie dog density. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 18:290-296.

  • Oldemeyer, J. L., et al. 1993. Proceedings of the symposium on the management of prairie dog complexes for the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Report 13. iii + 96 pp.

  • Oldemeyer, J. L., et al. 1994. Proceedings of a symposium for the management of prairie dog complexes for the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Report 13. 96 pp.

  • Pauli, J. N., R. M. Stephens, and S. H. Anderson. 2006. White-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus): a technical conservation assessment. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region. Available at http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/projects/scp/assessments/whitetailedprairiedog.pdf

  • Seglund, A. E., A. E. Ernst, M. Grenier, B. Luce, A. Puchniak, and P. Schnuur. 2004. White tailed prairie dog conservation assessment. White-tailed prairie dog Working Group. 152 pp.

  • Tileston, J.V., and R.R. Lechleitner. 1966. Some comparisons of the black-tailed and white-tailed prairie dogs in north-central Colorado. American Midland Naturalist 75: 292-316.

  • Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 1993. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Second edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. xviii + 1206 pp. Available online at: http://www.nmnh.si.edu/msw/.

  • Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 2005. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Third edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Two volumes. 2,142 pp. Available online at: https://www.departments.bucknell.edu/biology/resources/msw3/

  • Wilson, D. E., and S. Ruff. 1999. The Smithsonian book of North American mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 750 pp.

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