Prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.), members of the Sciuridae or squirrel family, are found throughout the western United States from Canada to Mexico in short and medium grass prairies. Prairie dogs increase habitat diversity and contribute to grassland ecosystem processes. Prairie dogs clip vegetation, creating open habitats preferred by grassland birds. Although they are integral to species diversity, consideration of prairie dogs as a keystone species is controversial. The perception that prairie dogs compete with cattle for food has led to widespread poisoning that has had major impact on their population and distribution. Numerous species prey on prairie dogs and use their burrows for shelter including badgers (Taxidea taxus), coyotes (Canis latrans), hawks, golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetoes), snakes, burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia), and bobcats (Lynx rufus). Prairie dog populations are also susceptible to plague and other diseases that can cause severe declines in populations, recreational shooting, and habitat destruction.