HELLO FROM A LONG HIATUS. It’s January, which means the prairie dogs have been underground for quite some time now. The benefit of living half an hour from our research site here in northern New Mexico is that Mariana can check in on our prairie dogs as often as she wants. During her last visit to the site over Thanksgiving, the prairie was woefully quiet, waiting expectantly until our little friends come up again in March. Of the five species of prairie dogs, the Gunnison's, Utah, and white-tailed all hibernate, while the black-tailed and Mexican do not (NATURAL HISTORY). Though you will see black-tailed prairie dogs in the snow, the winters they endure in their region of the United States are not quite as harsh as those of the species who are forced to hibernate if they want to survive in their colder and higher altitude regions. This is one of many across-species differences that have fascinated John and driven him to study the different species throughout his career.
Just for fun, the photo above is a picture of socks Mariana picked up during a recent trip to the German Alps, home of the alpine marmot (WIKIPEDIA). The animals on these socks were sold as alpine marmots, but Mariana knew better - those are prairie dogs!
Prairie dogs are only found in North America (NATURAL HISTORY), and while marmots are close cousins they are not in the same genus (Cynomys for prairie dogs; Marmota for marmots). The resemblance is undeniable to the untrained eye, but don’t worry - you won’t be able to mistake the two species in the wild, as they live on different sides of the Atlantic ocean.