1st baby prairie dogs at Desert Museum since 2005

Published: May. 3, 2011 at 10:08 PM MST|Updated: May. 11, 2011 at 12:27 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is celebrating the first sighting since 2005 of baby prairie dogs in its exhibit.

They have counted seven baby black-tailed prairie dogs coming out of their underground den to play in the sun.

They say there is a very small window of opportunity for mating every spring, since females are only in estrus 3 to 4 hours per year!

When the babies are born, they're blind and hairless, similar to newborn rabbits. That's why they remain underground from 38 to 50 days.

But, now the pups are up and running and it's a perfect time for mothers to teach their young various signals, like the call for alarm. That triggers the colony to hide underground to avoid threatening situations.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are one of two kinds found in the Sonoran Desert region.

And even though they used to populate southeastern Arizona in large numbers, they've been gone from Arizona since the early 1930's because their grassland ecosystem has changed and because there have been eradication programs.

Adults range from 14-17 inches long. They weigh from 1 -3 pounds. Their coats vary in color from brown to black, gray, and white, but one thing is consistent.  They all have black-tipped tails.

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