White-tailed prairie dogs are small prairie dogs and are known colloquially as "chiselers" in Wyoming, where they have their largerst populations. These prairie dogs are tan-brown in color, with large eyes and a dark patch on their cheeks above and below each eye. Males in this species tend to be slightly larger than females.
White-tailed prairie dogs are found in western Wyoming and western Colorado with small areas in eastern Utah and southern Montana in the United States. They inhabit higher elevations and meadows with dry, desert grasslands and shrublands.
White-tailed prairie dogs are diurnal. They are usually active in the morning and in the afternoon. After winter, when they emerge from hibernation, they repare the burrows. When the weather is bad they prefer to stay underground. White-tailed prairie dogs are very social and live in colonies that are divided into several family clans. A colony has 6 different clans on average. When foraging, clans often feed in the same areas, especially if there is enough food around. Pups stay near their burrows and spend time playing with others, wrestling and chasing each other. Females usually spend time with their pups and males usually wander much farther from their clans, especially during breeding season. White-tailed prairie dogs use visual signals and barks for communication. If during a group feeding and an individual stands up and looks around, the rest prairie dogs will also stand up and scan the area. These prairie dogs also use mounds as lookout points that surround their burrows.
White-tailed prairie dogs are polygynandrous (promiscuous) where both males and females have multiple partners during the breeding season. These animals breed when females emerge from hibernation in late March and early April. The gestation period lasts around 30 days. Females give birth to 1 litter per year consisting of 2-8 young. The mother nurses and cares for her pups within 4-5 weeks after which young leave the burrow. At this time they are quite independent. Females use different ways to protect their offspring after they emerge from the burrow. For example, in the morning, the mother is the first one who comes out of the burrow and if there are predators nearby she produces warning calls. Young White-tailed prairie dogs become reproductively mature at 1 year old.
White-tailed prairie dogs are threatened by human persecution (shooting and poisoning), and a disease called Sylvatic Plague that can infect all prairie dogs.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the White-tailed prairie dog total population size, but this animal is common and widespread throughout its known range. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, however its numbers today are decreasing.
White-tailed prairie dogs play important roles in their ecosystem. They modify the vegetation in the area, aerate the soil and provide food as well as shelter for a variety of predators, including mammals, snakes, and birds of prey. Being primary consumers, they provide a vital link in food webs.