Prairie Dog Gathers Hay

June 30, 2014 at 3:31 pm (Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, )

White-tailed prairie dog gathering hay

White-tailed prairie dog gathering hay

I’ve observed a new behavior in “our” white-tailed prairie dogs in the employee housing area of Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado.  They are gathering hay for their burrows.

Watch this short video to see how it’s done:

It reminds me of the smaller mountain pikas who gather grasses and leaves and dry them on the rocks before bringing them inside their burrows.


From what I can gather on the internet, the grass is used for their nests rather than as stored food to tide them through the winter.  White-tailed prairie dogs in the Cold Desert areas of Colorado and Utah normally hibernate for several months in winter and wouldn’t need to eat.

This year’s batch of babies should have already been weaned, and typically there is only one litter per year, so I am wondering why the nest-building is going on so late in the season.


I was also surprised to learn that prairie dogs may be kept as pets in many states.  I happen to think they are adorable and enjoy their antics in my yard and in the grassy fields surrounding the housing area.  Along with the desert cottontail rabbits, the least chipmunks, and the golden-mantled ground squirrels, they are part of the cornucopia of wildlife that tolerates us here.

Thank God for places like our national parks to protect these oft-maligned creatures!


Text and photographs copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

These photographs available here

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  1. Jet Eliot said,

    A refreshing appreciation of prairie dogs. When I visited Colorado a few years ago the residents did nothing but complain about them, and more than one person gave us a hard time for photographing them! I realize they do damage, but geez, they are so cute. Great photos and info.

    • Cindy McIntyre said,

      Hi Jet – they don’t do as much damage as people like to blame them for. We’ve moved in on their territory so we should learn to co-exist with them. It breaks my heart that people shoot them just for fun. They are a keystone species – many other animals depend on them. The black-footed ferret was almost extinct due to the eradication of the prairie dogs, which they eat. Burrowing owls will use abandoned burrows, and snakes will move in with the prairie dogs, who supposedly just cover them up with dirt since they can’t evict them! Unfortunately our prairie dogs “play in the street” and get squashed by the hundreds – they don’t understand speeding cars are bad, very very bad.

      • Jet Eliot said,

        I appreciate that you are savvy to the big picture, Cindy. The earth works better when we recognize the importance of every living being in the never-ending cycle of life. Colorado is lucky to have you!

  2. John Wilder said,

    Can I come live there?

  3. Alli Farkas said,

    Makes me want to design prairie dog “backpacks”–so they can get the job done a lot faster! (or maybe “tummy” packs since they don’t look like they would be very good at reaching around to their backs LOL)

  4. Pam Leonard said,

    I wonder if they have contests to see who can stuff more in their mouths? 😉

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