Prairie Dogs in Arizona
In this activity, students will watch a video about the unique features and habits of prairie dogs and answer questions.
By completing this activity, your students will be able to:
- Define keystone species and explain how the prairie dog is one.
- Explain how humans have impacted grassland habitats.
- Analyze the food web of grassland habitat.
And answer these critical thinking questions:
- Why is it important to restore grassland habitats?
- How have humans negatively changed the environment for prairie dogs? Positively?
- Prairie dogs are considered ecosystem engineers. What does that mean? Why is that important?
- How are prairie dogs connected to the other species found in the grasslands?
- What role do volunteers and partners play in wildlife conservation?
More About this Lesson Plan
The Arizona Game and Fish Department produces an Emmy-winning television show called Arizona Wildlife Views. Individual segments from this show are made available to stream for free on YouTube. In an attempt to make these videos more classroom-friendly, we have reviewed a number of these video clips to provide useful information and strategies for bringing them into the classroom. This includes questions that can be discussed during and after the video has been watched as a class.
This specific video introduces students to prairie dogs, a keystone species for grassland habitats throughout the western United States. Students will learn about the history of prairie dogs and how their fate is closely connected to human actions.
POTENTIAL DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
- How do prairie dogs recognize family and friends? (Pause at 0:28 to discuss)
- How many prairie dogs are estimated to have lived in the United States in the past? (Pause at 0:46 to discuss)
- What is the approximate year that black-tailed prairie dogs disappeared from Arizona? What hypothesis can you make for why this happened? (Pause at 1:09 to discuss)
- What does translocated mean? (Pause at 2:43 to discuss)
- How do the biologists encourage the prairie dogs to dig burrows upon release? Why is this important? (Pause at 3:42 to discuss)
- What is a keystone species? (Pause at 5:09 to discuss)
- How do prairie dogs help other species and the habitat? (Pause at 5:33 to discuss)
- How many prairie dog species are found in Arizona? (Pause at 5:48 to discuss)
- What animal’s survival is closely tied to the survival of prairie dogs? (Pause at 6:46 to discuss)
This lesson has been correlated to the following Arizona Department of Education academic standards:
- , HS+B.L4U1.2
Education through AZGFD
See resources for teachers, including lesson plans. Learn about hunter education, and classes to earn bonus points.
The goal of the AZGFD education program is to promote awareness, appreciation and stewardship of the state’s wildlife resources by using wildlife as a context for learning.
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Classroom and online instruction, and field days for hunter education. Online “Ethically Hunting Arizona” class allows hunters to earn a lifetime bonus point.