If you decide to visit Prairie Dog Town in Lubbock – and you should – bring carrot sticks or sweet potato chunks, and a camera with a long lens.
The black-tailed prairie dogs that live in the park are always up for a snack, but vegetables are better than the junk food that some visitors toss their way. Also, the critters are most active at dawn and dusk, so time your visit to the park, just off Interstate 27 near Parkway Drive accordingly.
Kennedy N. Clapp established the town in the early 1930s, with just four prairie dogs. They’ve flourished.
Drop by today and you’ll be rewarded with easy views of chubby little dogs popping up out of what looks like tiny dirt volcanoes that stretch across a field. You’ll also find a pavilion, explanatory signage, and sidewalks.
Black-tailed prairie dogs were once found across West Texas, but by 1994, 98 percent of their population was lost. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, fewer than 8 million remain in Texas, but the population is relatively stable.
They live in an elaborate network of burrows and tunnels, with special rooms for nurseries, food storage, toilet facilities and more. In the wild, a prairie dog lives 4 or 5 years, and females typically produce litters of three to five pups, once a year.
They’re very social, which makes them fun to observe. They stretch, “kiss,” stand guard, and groom one another. They’re about the size of a papaya, if it had brownish-yellow fur, legs, and a short tail.
Prairie dogs are not dogs, by the way. They’re more closely related to ground squirrels – only stouter. They were named for their barking calls.