Dun dun dunnnnnnn!

By Phil Plait | August 12, 2009 1:40 pm

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may know that a couple of weeks ago I went sightseeing at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park Colorado, which sits a few hundred meters from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. We went just to look around (the mountains are incredible) and to grab lunch — I recommend the elk burger, which is fantastic.

We went outside to soak in the sights, and this cute little guy (gal?) was by the pool looking for some grub too.

Click to embiggen. At first I thought it might be a squirrel, but then I saw the stubby little tail and knew it was a prairie dog.

The only problem when I took this picture? No theme music.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Pretty pictures

Comments (39)

  1. Savino


    You got to love those little creatures!

  2. evinfuilt

    Run for your life, its a Plague Rat, wonder how it got there from Aurora; They were everywhere growing up, but I don’t recall ever seeing them in Estes.

    More importantly, where did you get your Elk Burger? Was it at The Stanley itself, or somewhere in Estes?

  3. Kevin

    Haha. Wow, prairie dogs are really kinda cute, aren’t they?


    Well, this one is definitely a "guy":


  5. Mount

    They are the cutest vermin suitable for target practice. I hear some people keep them as pets!

  6. Yes, I know this isn’t a prairie dog, but…


  7. Darren Garrison

    Ah, the prairie dog– ever vigilant for their natural enemy, the Japanese Schoolgirl.


    (around 2:30 in– the origin of the meme.)

  8. DrFlimmer


    but Ivan3man: This reminds me of bats. Isn’t their “ball size” inversely proportional to the size of their brains? I have something like this in mind that I read it somewhere….


  9. Ah, prairie dogs. Nature’s bowling pins.

  10. BUNNY

    This is Agent 000, Secret Squirell reporting for duty, chief!

  11. Big Al

    Found a good one in Calamities of Nature: http://www.calamitiesofnature.com/
    Strip dated 8/12/09 for later readers.

  12. Gary Ansorge

    7. Darren Garrison

    School girls,,,so,,,squeaky,,,ow, my ears,,,

    I understand prairie dogs make good stew, or are good AS stew. Dang, I need more coffee.

    Ivan3Man, he looks like he needs a tripod to help him stand up,,,

    Gary 7

  13. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYcsgjF5v5M

    The prairie dog was the best ever Doctor Who villain.

  14. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Obviously there was an acute shortage of eyeglasses in the hand waving days of wild, wild west, if those squirrels/rats/vermin are called dogs. ūüėÄ

    [Um, let me guess, social critters = “dogs”?!]

    @ DrFlimmer:

    I believe there was an old hypotheses about testes proportional to opportunity, at least in simians. Pan, mostly polygamous: big ‘uns. Homo, mostly monogamous: medium. Gorilla, dominant male: small.

    Don’t know how it stands up scientifically. (I would note squirrels here, if not for that I don’t know how much the owner of the above photo photo-shopped his “credentials”. :-D) It’s probably all trash and folk tales, if placement of testes depends on other stuff like temperatures, which I believe is why some animals like elephants have them internally.

    Speaking of standing up, I don’t think there is any similar relation to the semen outlet. Humans are well endowed compared to the rest, I hear. On the contrary, perhaps our own, in comparison intensive, sexual competition for monogamous mates has resulted in (body hair and other) organ modification.

  15. Aman

    Prairie dogs are rampant in the foothills of the Rockies, and sometimes they can be quite a nuisance. Some time ago, Celestial Seasonings (tea) in Boulder/Longmont even had to issue an apology to protesting and boycotting residents when they gassed an overgrown colony.
    Lacking natural predators, breeding like rodents, and being cute is a terrific combination. Those prairie dogs are close to invincible.

  16. Darren Garrison


    “I understand prairie dogs make good stew”

    Yes, but they have to stand on your head and pull your hair to do it.

  17. gopher65

    IIRC prairie dogs actually are squirrels… Ground squirrels. I love those things:). So cute and cuddly looking. And they can let loose ultrasonic shouts too.

  18. Jon

    Cute lil critter:)

    I was in Estes Park about that time. There was a star party in RMNP on the 24th to boot:)

  19. dragonet2

    May be a variety of ground squirrel, there are ones that live at Jackson Lake Lodge and are shameless beggars. And if you’re stupid enough to offer them peanuts or something like that, they’ll mug you.

  20. Bigfoot

    Hey, I love those things! Just kidding, they taste kinda gamey.

  21. Bakafish

    I didn’t bother to verify any of this, but that looks like a common Ground Squirrel, not a prairie dog. Prairie dogs are much larger and live in colonies, in prairies… Ground squirrels on the other hand are as common as the dirt they live in, are much smaller, and are bushy tail disabled compared to our frisky arboreal variety.

  22. Mark Hansen
  23. Delbin

    Definitely a prarie dog. They live everywhere in colorado where they aren’t exterminated or paved over, so they’re quite common. Estes is a very short drive from the plains if you didn’t realize. It’s not like he needed a team of sherpa to get there.

  24. Barbara

    That Estes Park photo shows a ground squirrel or rock squirrel. Same family as prairie dogs, different genus. Very cute.

  25. Mike Wagner

    In the “Evolve” tv series, they covered communication in animals and referred to prairie dogs as not only communicating in sentences but using descriptive words.
    When the researcher walked through, they chattered about them to the other PDs – including what appeared to be descriptions of color when the researcher changed outfits.

  26. Radwaste

    You’re looking at a fine disease vector. People will leave their pets outside to roam, and yirenia pestis is still present in Colorado rodentia.

  27. stogoe

    I’ve always felt that elk was too lean to make good burgers.

  28. evinfuilt

    to 27: Thus why all my friends in Colorado called them Plague Rats. When we went camping in New Mexico there were warnings everywhere that the prairie dogs had plague and you needed to be aware of them.

    to 28: add a little pork fat into the ground elk. I do that with sausage, it works perfectly well.

  29. Matt

    My wife used to have a pet Prairie dog. He just died a couple of years ago. Pretty cool little animals.

  30. cspackler

    Nice comic Big Al! Here’s also a direct link for everyone


  31. Joe Meils

    All the cuteness with 25% more bubonic plauge!

  32. DenverAstro

    Bah, Prairie Dogs are rats without tails, plague carriers, coyote fodder. And that is definately a Prairie Dog in the picture. I ought to know, I live in Aurora and have about a quarter million of the bloody things as neighbors. There are very few coyotes left, and virtually no wild cats so those buggers have no natural enemies but man. And if people keep thinking they are cute little fuzzy critters that shouldn’t be controlled, they are just begging for their kids to end up in a hospital with plague or some such nasty malfunction. And please note, I didn’t say wiped out, I said ‘controlled’. (I just know I’m gonna get flamed for this post)

  33. We’ve never seen a prairie dog in Estes Park, but have seen many of them in nearby Fort Collins. They can really mess up the ground with their holes. Rattlesnakes like to hang out in them too.

  34. C Banks

    Richardson’s Ground Squirrel, aka gopher (which it isn’t) nor is it a “prairie dog” another species of rodent. Ground squirrel – tastes like ground beef on a bun?

  35. CR

    Not that anyone will see this, but just to tell how nerdy I am, I knew what the title of this entry meant before I even saw the picture. I was scrolling down and, as soon as I caught the title, the ‘theme’ music kicked in. When I scrolled further and saw the pic, I laughed out loud. (Perhaps I cried a little, too…)

    Wow, I have GOT to get a life…

  36. My gosh, they’re everywhere! We don’t have prarie dogs around my place but we do have conceptually similar items – with big bushy tails. My long running battle with them has become a part of my strip. For those with an interest, you can see the start here


    And for those without an interest, please just happily ignore the link!


    2nd Assistant Dog Polisher


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