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Amorous Prairie Dogs

October 30, 2006

Young male prairie dogs are the most vulnerable of them all–when it comes time for love.


Overeager prairie dogs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[Prairie dog barks]

These Utah prairie dogs are barking out a warning that they’ve spotted a hungry fox. You’d think that the fox’s best hope for dinner now is a prairie dog who’s too old or sick to get away. But University of Maryland behavioral ecologist John Hoogland found that during prairie dog mating season, the easy targets are healthy males.

JOHN HOOGLAND (University of Maryland):
And the bottom line is, because of this obsession with sex, these males were highly vulnerable to predation. So during that seventeen days of the mating season, we saw ten males get taken by either a red fox or a northern goshawk.

That’s out of just twenty-six prairie dogs that were caught all year. He says saving endangered prairie dogs may require keeping predators away when the males are preoccupied.

[Prairie dog barks]

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.