Five species are included in this genus in North America, and prairie dogs are found throughout much of the western U.S. west of the Mississippi River, in western Canada, and south into northern Mexico. They are considered a problem when their extensive burrowing and mounds of soil disrupt human activities such as livestock grazing, sporting activities, agriculture, and landscaping. However, they also are an important part of their natural ecosystems, providing food to many predators and soil aeration due to their burrowing. They feed primarily on grains but also consume insects such as grasshoppers. They are a favorite ground squirrel to many people due to their endearing appearance and social behavior and in general an overall “cute” look and habit. Their sharp warning “bark” resembles that of a dog, leading to their common name. They are not of breeding age for at least 2 years, have a single litter of 3-4 pups each year, and may live 4-5 years in the wild.
When considering control one must take into account a number of endangered species of animals, including the Black-footed Ferret. In some states the prairie dog is classified as a non-game animal and an agricultural pest that may be killed at any time in any humane manner. Where only small numbers of the animals are a problem they may be removed by shooting or trapping, with consideration given for their status in each state. Baiting using a labeled rodenticide is also effective as is fumigation of burrows using either gas cartridges or aluminum phosphide.