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Exotic pets, rodents and birds

Prairie Dogs!!


There is truly scores of fantastic information out there on the Black tailed prairie dog, and I hope to be able to provide you with some great links. On this page, you will also see a letter I had a friend of mine, Lynn Rohaus, who did a great job detailing her experience with PD's.
Below is her information:

"Prairie Dogs reproduce only once a year. Gestation is anywhere from 25-35 days. Normal is 30 days. Anything over 35 days and they either need a vet immediately (if confirmed pregnant) or they have had a false pregnancy. IF babies are born, the mother and babies MUST be in a nesting box (given to her prior to birth) in a part of the house where NO person or other animal goes. If the Prairie Dog mom feels the babies are threatened in any way, she will kill them. Even a quick peek by the human they love the most is enough to cause it. The only time acceptable to bother the cage is when feeding and watering and then do it quickly, just opening the door to place the food in and then shut it immediately. All food, water and hay need to be placed in at one time. Approximately 6 weeks later, she will allow them out of the nest and then it will be okay. However, getting them to breed in captivity is a feat that many have tried, and only a few skilled and lucky ones have achieved. It all really depends on the prairie dogs and what they are comfortable with.

NOTE: Although the "rut" season last for 4-6 months, depending on the area the prairie dog came from, the female is only fertile for "4 HOURS" out of all of that time. It is generally sometime in January or February although cases have been documented before and way after that time period. There is a pair of pds in a zoo in England that breed annualy around June or July! I saw the babies in November 1999 at the zoo and they appeared to be approximately 4-5 months old. The caretakers said that one pair have always produced late in the season.

Intact males will downright STINK during rut season. Even neutered males will put off a stronger odor compared to the females. The odor is from the urine. The only cure for that is frequent cleaning of the cage. Their behavior is the part to worry about. Trust me. I almost lost my hand twice to "rut" bites. Alpha males have a distinctively more "ferocious" bite during rut and the germs in their mouths produce a very large variety of germs. The first "alpha" bite I got went thru the artery and directly into the bone of my index finger. Lou hit me so fast I didn't even feel him tense up first. The second time, one year later, SugarBoy (aka Psycho PD) decided he wanted to challenge me for possession of the coterie. The day after I rescued him, I was giving him belly rubs and rump scratches and he was loving every minute of it. I placed his food dish inside the cage and as I retracted my hand, he hit! Same finger but this time the bite went deep into my knuckle. When an Alpha prairie dog wants to take possession of a coterie in the wild, he will challenge the Alpha male in control of it and will fight to the death if necessary. In captivity, the prairie dogs respect us and bond to us as if WE were the Alpha of the coterie. When an Alpha comes into the home, they challenge the Alpha "human". The best way to help avoid this problem is to have them neutered prior to their first rut, which is the fall season after they have turned 1yr old. This is not a guarantee that they will be sweet little angels, but that if they do have a dominant personality, it can be possibly be kept at a minimum. I am not saying that every male prairie dog is a nightmare. Many are sweet all year long even if not neutered or spayed. The same is true for the females. They also can have dominant personalities and should be spayed. However, there are many females that have not been spayed and are just fine during rut. Those that are intact during rut and remain sweet, male and female, are rare. All prairie dogs will have heightened instincts during this time as they would in the wild.

A prairie dog is not an animal that is tamed. Rather, they are a wild animal that accepts and trusts humans and will accept their humans as just "big 'ole prairie dogs". Their instincts remain strong all of their lives and to this you must be alert and aware of thier individual behaviors at all times. That is the joy of having a prairie dog own you. You live for their respect and thier love.....and their love is eternally unconditional!"

Lynn Rohaus
***Prairie Dog Haven***
Note*** The above information on prairie dog behavior is my opinion based on first hand observations and experiences with my own prairie dogs over the last 7 years and information I have learned from many different people, especially Pat Storer, author of "Prairie Dog Pets".


Diet:
The best diet is one that emulates the natural eating habits of the animal. The prairie dogs live in the prairie of the midwest, therefore, they are most adapted for the prairie grasses with very little 'goodies.' They do best with a diet of grass hay, such as orchard grass or timothy, little rodent blocks for minerals, and very VERY few pieces of dandelion greens, small clippings of grass, little bits of sweet potato or carrot or apple, and really, nothing else save a bit of peanut or seed once a week. They are simply not cut out to handle much richer foods than that.
If you allow your prairie dog too much in the way of rich, fatty foods, it can actually cause an increase in the potential of liver, tumour or gall bladder problems over time. They are just not adapted for high fat diets. I highly recommend Mazuri rodent block as a compliment to the hay, which should be the staple diet for all prairie dogs. Hay hay hay!

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