Prairie dogs are a group of fossorial (burrowing) ground squirrels (family Sciuridae) that live in large colonies. They are most closely related to marmots and other ground squirrels, and they are split into five species: black-tailed prairie dogs (the most widespread and social species; Cynomys ludovicianus), Mexican prairie dogs (found in only a small region in Mexico; C. mexicanus), white-tailed prairie dogs (C. leucurus), Gunnison’s prairie dogs (C. gunnisoni), and Utah prairie dogs (C. parvidens).
Prairie dogs are commonly, but mistakenly, referred to as gophers, which are mouse-like rodents in the family Geomyidae (e.g., see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Geomys_bursarius.jpg). Pocket gophers are more highly fossorial than prairie dogs, and spend almost all of their time underground. They are also solitary, and males interact with females only during mating. (more…)