What Kinds of Animals Once Lived on the Prairies?

kinds-animals-once-lived-prairies Credit: Eric Raptosh Photography/Blend Images/Getty Images

At one time, the prairies were teeming with life, covered in herds of grazing animals such as bison, elk, deer, prairie dogs, buffalo and rabbits. As of 2014, however, much of the land that was once prairie land is gone, urbanized and developed until only a small percentage of the land remains untouched.

In the days when the prairies were at their peak, the abundant grasses and plant life varied greatly. The climate was drier in the western areas, where rainfall was less frequent. As a result, the animals that lived there learned to adapt by needing less water. Animals such as ground squirrels and shrews that lived on the prairie got most of their water from foods they ate. Many smaller animals, such as prairie dogs and mice, went below ground, digging numerous tunnels to keep cool and sleep during the heat of the day. Even plants learned to adapt to the hot weather, and they developed deep roots and bulbs underground. Animals ate the plants and fertilized the land, and every few years fire would burn back the top layer of plant life, leading to new growth and fertility. As of 2014, some prairie animals remain on the prairie lands, either on open farmland or in the wild. Such species include rabbits, prairie dogs and deer.