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Black-tailed prairie dogs are generally tan in color, with a lighter colored belly. Their tail has a black tip on it, which is where their name is derived from. Adults can weigh from 1.5 to 3 lb., males are typically heavier than females. Body length is normally from 14 to 17 in., with a 3 to 4 in. tail.
Black-tailed prairie dogs are native to grassland habitats in North America. They inhabit shortgrass prairie, mixed-grass prairie, sagebrush steppe, and desert grassland. Habitat preferences for the black-tailed prairie dog are influenced by vegetative cover type, slope, soil type, and amount of rainfall. Black-tailed prairie dog foraging and burrowing activities influence environmental heterogeneity, hydrology, nutrient cycling, biodiversity, landscape architecture, and plant succession in grassland habitat.
Black-tailed prairie dogs are diurnal. Aboveground activity is reduced when rain or snow is falling and during days when the temperature exceeds 100 °F. They do not hibernate but may become dormant for short periods.