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Prairie Dogs

Let’s Build this Town!

The campaign to bring Prairie Dogs to the Zoo is well underway. We have already raised 2/3 of the $658,000 necessary to construct the all new exhibit which will include:

  • a species appropriate habitat complete with underground barriers to contain this burrowing species, large mounds, rockwork and native grasses
  • public viewing areas including a sheltered space as well as clear wall so guests from the Zoo Train can see inside the exhibit.
  • educational displays to allow people to understand the plight facing this imperiled species and how they can help

At Niabi Zoo, we are working today to assure a better tomorrow for all living things. Part of that work is telling the conservation stories of animals, including those that are misrepresented, such as Prairie Dogs.

If one is to believe the historic view of Prairie Dogs by cattle ranchers, it would be that they destroy the grasses that cattle like to eat, dig holes everywhere that could break the legs of cattle, and are pests that should be exterminated. Since 1880, with poisoning campaigns supported by the US government, shooting, trapping, and habitat destruction for conversion to agriculture has resulted in the mass extermination of Prairie Dog species. 98% of Prairie Dog populations have been wiped out.


Ecological research has shown that Prairie Dogs are keystone species that help North America prairies thrive. They live in large family groups called coteries that dig extensive burrow systems known as Prairie Dog towns which provides good irrigation for the grasslands. As they eat prairie grasses, they also fertilize and disperse grass seeds, resulting in increased diversity of plants.

Many species depend on the work that Prairie Dogs do for their grassland ecosystem including bison, pronghorn antelope, elk, deer, and pollinators such as bees and butterflies. They are prey species and provide homes for burrowing owls, black footed ferrets, fox, snakes, hawks, badgers, and many more.


Even cattle benefit from Prairie Dogs as the grasses growing in and around Dog towns are more nutritious and contrary to popular belief, cattle rarely if ever step in Prairie Dog holes. Millions of grazing animals including bison, antelope, elk, and deer have lived with and benefitted from Prairie Dogs for thousands of years and do not break their legs in holes.

Cattle are no different. However, this has not prevented the pursuit of extermination practices for over 140 years resulting in the loss of 98% of Prairie Dogs, yet they are not listed as endangered. The conservation story of Prairie Dogs needs to be told.

Build this Town

You have an opportunity to help tell this story and let Quad Citizens experience Prairie Dogs first hand as we construct this all new Prairie Dog Town at Niabi Zoo.

Donations can contribute to:

  • $50 = 1 week of herbivore diet
  • $100 = Purchase enrichment devices
  • $250 = Install video monitoring system
  • $500 = Provide veterinary care
  • $1000 = Prairie Dog habitat decor
  • $2500 = Educational displays
  • $5000 = Naturalistic rock molding
  • $7500 = Clear viewing panels
  • $10,000 = Prairie Dog town development

Donate Now


Sponsorships and larger gifts will help to achieve this conservation minded goal. If you, a business, organization, or foundation would like to contribute, please consider the following sponsorship opportunities:

  • Exhibit Title Sponsor = $100,000+
  • Zookeeper Building Sponsor = $75,000
  • Viewing Shelter Sponsor = $50,000
  • Outdoor Habitat Sponsor = $40,000
  • Train Viewing Sponsor = $30,000
  • Educational Display Sponsor = $20,000

To schedule a presentation to discuss details and benefits of sponsorship, please contact Zoo Director, Lee Jackson.

Online Giving

Become part of our coterie by donating to help to bring Prairie Dogs to Niabi Zoo. Any sized gift is welcome, large or small.  Support this at-risk species while building a better Quad Cities and a better world.

Donate Now

Want to help even more? Get your own coterie together to become a fundraiser for the Niabi Zoo & Forest Preserves Foundation!  You will help educate others about protecting this important keystone species, and you’ll help your friends feel good about doing good.

Starting a fundraiser is easy to do, and it’s fun. We’ll even give you all the tools you’ll need to make a difference. With your help, we can help not only Prairie Dogs, but all the species of the prairies that depend on them.

Start a Fundraiser