Prairie dogs return to Wildwood
For the Hub City Times
MARSHFIELD – The prairie dogs are back at Marshfield’s Wildwood Park & Zoo in an upgraded exhibit.
“We’re very excited to announce the return of prairie dogs to Wildwood Park and Zoo. We know prairie dogs are a lot of visitors favorite so we worked very hard to bring them back! We’ve upgraded the exhibit with higher walls and ‘no-climb’ panels to keep predators and pests out, a backup sump pump was added to keep the exhibit from flooding during large rain events, and this group of animals (obviously) bring with them new genes to alleviate the breeding bottleneck our old population was experiencing. We hope these prairie dogs and their offspring will be happy at Wildwood Park and Zoo for years to come,” a release from Marshfield Zookeeper Steve Burns stated.
“Black-tailed prairie dogs are large, stout, ground-dwelling squirrels. They live in large colonies in the grasslands of central and western North America. There are five species of prairie dogs: Black-tailed, White-tailed, Gunnison’s, Mexican, and Utah. The Black-tailed prairie dog, the most common species, is the only species of prairie dog found within the vast Great Plains region of North America. Unlike the White-tailed, Gunnison’s, and the Utah prairie dogs the Black-tailed and Mexican do not hibernate.
“Prairie dogs are very vocal animals. If there is danger they make a warning chirp, sending the others to their holes for cover. When it is safe, a prairie dog will leap in the air and yip. After hearing the all-clear call you will soon see the whole town yipping and jumping.
“Prairie dogs are considered to be a keystone species because they benefit approximately 170 other species. A keystone species is a plant or animal that plays a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions. Prairie dogs are a food source for many animals such as coyotes, eagles, badgers and critically endangered black-footed ferrets. Their burrows provide shelter for animals such as burrowing owls, mountain plovers, and tiger salamanders. They also help aerate and fertilize the soil, creating a greater diversity of plants to thrive.”