A lot of people believe Spring has sprung when flowers begin to bloom and leaves are back on the trees. Others think Spring is here when the temperatures start to climb. Here at the Hattiesburg Zoo, we know it is Spring when the first prairie dog pups emerge! Earlier this week, the first prairie dog pup of the year stepped out into the sunlight and debuted his/her sweet little face. Over the next couple days, keepers counted up to 7 babies out at a time and we will continue to keep an eye out for more!
A little background on these cute critters: The prairie dogs at the zoo are black-tailed prairie dogs. Black-tailed prairie dogs can be found across a large portion of the United States as well as in parts of Mexico and Canada. They live in colonies and have a very dynamic social structure.
Prairie dog pups spend up to 7 weeks below ground in the burrows, where they are cared for by all of the mothers in the group. They will set up “nurseries” within the burrows and the females collectively nurse and care for their young. Once the babies are weaned, they will emerge out of the burrows and began learning about life above ground. The adults are never very far away and keep a close eye on the youngsters as they play and explore. The pups also learn to communicate and understand warning signals that are given by the older group members and are typically the first to retreat at any sign of danger.
We hope you will come visit our prairie dog colony at the zoo and see how many babies you can count!