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Last surviving Madison prairie dog attacked at Baraboo zoo

BARABOO (WKOW) — The last surviving prairie dog from the group that froze to death last winter at the Henry Vilas Zoo was attacked in its new Ochsner Park Zoo exhibit by another prairie dog.

Erika, the prairie dog, had been kept in a crate inside an exhibit with other prairie dogs since her arrival at the Baraboo zoo in May. Zoo staff said the crate was meant to help slowly introduce Erika to the other dogs and should be released once zoo staff felt there had been enough positive interaction.

That finally came on Wednesday, according to a post on the zoo’s Facebook page.

“Erika was let out Wednesday evening,” the zoo said. “The mother prairie dog of the youngest baby kept coming out and following Erika around the exhibit.”

The mother attacked Erika several times, which the zoo said was, “nothing severe yet it probably would have escalated if the keeper hadn’t put Erika back into the crate.”

Zoo staff said mothers with babies can be very aggressive to other females because they injure or even kill the young of other prairie dogs.

The zoo laid out two paths forward for Erika. The first would be to move Erika to another zoo with a smaller prairie dog population.

The zoo may also opt to keep Erika in her crate inside the exhibit for approximately another month until the babies have been weaned.

“Staff is taking it day by day to see what happens as babies grow and the two mothers begin to worry less,” the zoo said.

Courtney Terlecki

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