Prairie dogs are adorable, puppy-like rodents that are common across the Great Plains in the Midwestern United States. But, as cute as they are, they have a much darker side, especially white-tailed prairie dogs.
Although white-tailed prairie dogs are herbivorous, they have been documented killing rival rodents, such as Wyoming ground squirrels. This makes them the first herbivorous mammals that have been documented killing competitors without eating them.
You might think that such incidences are quite rare; however, according to John Hoogland of the University of Maryland Center of Environmental Sciences, over the course of five years, he and his students have documented 101 ground squirrel murders and 62 suspected cases.
Worse yet, in one case, a white-tailed prairie dogs named “Killer Supreme” killed as many as nine ground squirrels over the course of four years.
That is an insane amount of carnage for a creature that resembles an overgrown hamster.
But there’s more to this seemingly senseless killing than meets the eye.
Ground squirrels are huge prairie dog rivals, and thus, they compete with prairie dogs for food and other resources. Evidence suggests that the young of white-tailed prairie dogs that kill Wyoming ground squirrels live much longer than those that do not.
So, clearly, their murderous deeds offer them valuable benefits.
Watch what happens when a viper decides to slither into prairie dog territory:
The video below further highlights the fearlessness of prairie dogs in the face of snakes: