Powell, OH – Officials from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium are asking residents that live adjacent to the Zoo for their assistance in keeping an eye out for some wandering prairie dogs. Eleven prairie dogs were able to wiggle their way out of a temporary housing. Several prairie dogs have been seen and to date four are now back in the Zoo’s care.
“All of the prairie dog sightings, including ones within the past few days, are in the North America area of the Zoo where the animals were kept” said Assistant Curator Jeremy Carpenter. “At this point we don’t have any reason to believe they have left Zoo property but we decided to enlist the help of our neighbors just in case.”
Twenty prairie dogs were transported to the Columbus Zoo from another zoo in November 2010. As part of the Zoo’s normal protocol the prairie dogs, three males and 17 females, were kept in quarantine to ensure they were healthy and to neuter the males. They were then moved to temporary quarters two weeks ago to await the arrival of spring when they could be introduced to the Zoo’s existing prairie dog exhibit.
Black-tailed prairie dogs are native to the grasslands of western North America. They are ground squirrels that feed on vegetation and the occasional insect. They weigh just 1-3 pounds and are about 12-15 inches in length (including their 2-3 inch tail.) Prairie dogs are generally only active during the day.
Prairie dogs were once possibly the most abundant animal in North America with a population which may have exceeded one billion animals. Due to a variety of reasons, including the loss of habitat, their numbers have decreased and there are now approximately 10-20 million prairie dogs.
Persons living adjacent to the Zoo who believe they may have seen a prairie dog are asked to call the Zoo at 724-3612. While prairie dogs are not dangerous, it is always best to avoid approaching a wild animal and risk being bitten.
# # #
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is open 363 days of the year. General admission is $12.99 for adults, $7.99 for children ages 2 to 9 and seniors 60+. Children under 2 and Columbus Zoo members are free. The Zoo was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA.) For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit www.columbuszoo.org.