Two cute prairie dog babies that were born underground in a Vienna zoo have now appeared on the surface for the first time.
The two baby prairie dogs have experienced the outdoor facilities of the Tiergarten Schonbrunn zoo in Austria for the first time after they were born in mid-April 2021.
Zoo Director Stephan Hering-Hagenbeck said: ‘The young were born and growing up in an underground burrow. When they were born, they weighed around 15 grams each, they were naked and blind.’
After the appeared on the surface, the two newborns that have not been named yet could be observed by visitors while they were playing and scuffling under the sun, which they enjoyed very much, according to the director.
Prairie dogs (genus Cynomys) are herbivorous burrowing rodents native to the grasslands of North America and can be divided in five species: black-tailed, white-tailed, Gunnison’s, Utah, and Mexican prairie dogs.
The Utah prairie dog (Cynomys parvidens) which is the smallest prairie dog species is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
According to Hering-Hagenbeck the two newborns join those already born this year bringing the total to at least seven, even though he admitted that counting them is almost impossible due to their habit of living underground.
He added: ‘The animals, on the other hand, always keep track. Black-tailed prairie dogs live in huge colonies in the wilderness. They sniff each other to know who is in the family. This ritual looks like a kiss.’
Baby prairie dogs are suckled for almost two months after they are born, but feed with grasses, grains and carrots afterwards which help them build fat reserves in winter when, due to low temperature, they might fall into a light hibernation-like sleep and stay in their burrows for a few days.