Do Prairie Dogs Eat Other Prairie Dogs?

do prairie dogs eat other prairie dogs

Prairie dogs are unique among all species of ground squirrels and stand out from all other burrowing critters in North America. These rodents are known for very mild behavior and are not likely to attack one another, but there have been reports of prairie dogs eating other prairie dogs. Are these reports true?

Prairie dogs are primarily herbivores, except for some insects. Still, some females of certain prairie dog species are known to kill other rodents, including the young of other females and some ground squirrels. However, Prairie dogs do not actively eat these animals.

Prairie dogs are fascinating animals and are the subject of study for many biologists. This means that there are several scientists observing these animals at any given time, providing anyone interested with abundant information. 

Let’s explore these allegations of cannibalistic prairie dogs. 

Do Prairie Dogs Eat Other Prairie Dogs?

Prairie dogs are unique species of ground squirrels. These animals are closer in behavior and diet to a rabbit than a squirrel, but they do have some interesting traits that surprise anyone who studies them. 

These rodents are primarily herbivores, and their diet consists of 90% plant material, but two species of prairie dogs are known to kill other young prairie dogs. 

During studies conducted if the Black-Tailed prairie dog and the Utah prairie dog, biologists discovered that the females of these species would enter the burrows of other females and kill their young. 

Some instances of these killings showed signs that the females that killed the young prairie dogs had also eaten part of them. 

This behavior is sporadic among prairie dogs and has only been documented in these two species. There are seven individual prairie dog species, and no other species have exhibited this behavior. 

The fact that these rodents barely eat anything other than plants makes this discovery even more shocking. 

Prairie dogs are not violent animals, but some species go to greater lengths than others to ensure the survival of themselves and their lineage. 

Why Do Prairie Dogs Eat Their Young?

The unusual behavior observed by biologists studying prairie dogs is difficult to justify. Even the biologist who conducted the studies can only speculate as to why these species of prairie dogs behave this way. 

The leading theory in this regard is that these prairie dogs kill the young of others to ensure the survival of their own young. 

This behavior has only been observed in areas with unusually high prairie dog populations. Therefore, the rodents must compete for resources in these areas as there is not always enough to go around. 

So some female prairie dogs kill the young of opposing females so their young will have enough resources to sustain them into adulthood. 

This behavior is rare, even among these species of prairie dogs, and only happens when necessary. 

Female prairie dogs do not kill for food, nor do they kill for pleasure. These killings only happen when there is an extreme need for it and never on any other occasions. 

Do Prairie Dogs Kill Other Animals?

We have learned that some prairie dogs do kill other prairie dogs, but do they exhibit this behavior toward any other animals?

Some prairie dogs in certain areas have been known to kill other species of squirrels, except that in these instances, they do not kill the young but adult squirrels. 

This is also rare behavior, and not many individual prairie dogs participate in it, but those that do are almost always females. 

These female prairie dogs are larger than most other squirrels and overpower them easily. A simple snap of the mouth and shake of the head is enough to kill smaller squirrels, and the prairie dogs who do this tend to kill several squirrels over their lifetime. 

Some female prairie dogs engage in these killings because squirrels, particularly ground squirrels, and prairie dogs compete for the same resources. 

These animals live in similar habitats, eat similar food, and have similar survival requirements. They even live in the same home burrows. 

When resources become scarce due to overpopulation, droughts, or even during the winter months, some prairie dogs will do whatever is necessary to maintain their resource intake, including killing any ground squirrels that come into their foraging areas. 

These killings are opportunistic, and the prairie dogs do not actively hunt squirrels, but they will not hesitate in these circumstances to kill them, even though they do not eat the squirrels after killing them. 

Do Prairie Dogs Eat Any Meat?

Prairie dogs are known to kill other rodents in this way, but they are primarily vegetarian animals. This leads many to wonder if the prairie dogs that kill ever eat meat.

The only food items most prairie dogs eat that are not vegetation are insects. 

Prairie dogs eat grass, seeds, flowers, and insects. 

These animals do not eat meat, hunt other animals, and receive all their required nutrition through the plants they eat. 

The only instances of prairie dogs eating meat are those when females kill young prairie dogs, but this is probably an accidental result of the killing, not an intentional intake of food. 

Prairie dogs are not usually violent animals, and they do not hunt. 

However, this strange behavior goes against everything we know these animals to be, proving that you cannot put mother nature in a box, and animals can always surprise you, regardless of how much they have been observed and studied. 

Final Word

Prairie dogs are well-studied animals, and even they can still surprise us. These peaceful animals are capable of shocking things when they fight for their survival, and they are not above killing other animals to do so. 

Most prairie dogs are peaceful and do not engage in these acts, but when required to do so, any female prairie dog will take drastic action. 

The next time you see a peaceful prairie dog poking out of a burrow, remember that these animals are not always what they seem. 

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