Prairie Dog Town

Prairie dog sentry on alert. Photo courtesy of John Herron.

4th Grade Activity - Teacher Directions

Summary

Students draw a cross-section of a prairie dog town.

Background:

Prairie dogs are very social and live in groups called "prairie dog towns." One of these "towns" can cover as much as 1,000 acres of prairie land such as found in the Panhandle. The town consists of a series of connected underground burrows. The town is subdivided into "wards" and the wards are further subdivided into "coteries". A coterie consists of one adult male, up to four females, and offspring up to two years of age. Prairie dogs within a ward greet each other with bared teeth, which is a kind of a "kiss" and a form of recognition. They feed on grass and herbs during the cool hours of the day. During this time, they also greet and groom each other. A "sentry" prairie dog always sits at the opening to a burrow keeping watch. A bark is sounded as a warning for all to dive into their burrows until the "all clear" signal is given. Read about the interrelationship of the prairie dog with other species in this excerpt of the Endangered Species Activity Bookmedia download(PDF 277.6 KB). Also find a template for a prairie dog mask in the book.

Skills:

Science: Learned and inherited traits, Adaptations, Community, Populations
Mathematics: Measurement
Art: Design

Materials:

Procedure:

  1. Have students design a prairie dog "town" for a single coterie of one male, three females, and ten offspring under two years of age.
  2. Allow students to share their drawings with classmates.
  3. Have students demonstrate their knowledge of prairie dog life by creating a large prairie town of many wards and sentries with their drawings on a bulletin board or wall space.

drawing of prairie dog town


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