Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2010


Published in Great Plains Research 20.1 (Spring 2010): 138.


Copyright 2010 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Used by permission.


Prairie dogs (genus Cynomys) are midsized ground squirrels and a sentinel of the Great Plains’ health. Where there are prairie dogs, there are predators. Where there are prairie dogs, the soil is turned over and aerated. Where there are prairie dogs, plant biodiversity is maintained by their intermittent disturbance. Sadly, prairie dogs are vilified by humans: they are shot, poisoned, drowned, sucked out of their burrows with high powered vacuums, and their habitats paved over and converted to housing and shopping centers. In this book, the authors tell us about their studies of social behavior and communication in Gunnison’s prairie dogs, while broadening their story to include information about the other four species— black-tailed, white-tailed, Utah, and Mexican—along with messages about conservation and coexistence. Their admirable intent is to educate people about prairie dogs as a way to help conserve them.