Prairie Dogs: Animals of Manifest Destiny
From 1840–1869, 300,000 people crossed the American continent to the California gold fields or to the Oregon farms. They encountered animals new to them like the buffalo or grizzly bear, but also discovered a member of the ground squirrel family–the prairie dog. The emigrants compared the perceived lives of the rodents to those that they wished to create for themselves in their new homes. The prairie dog, to them, symbolized the new nation, a nation of democratic-republican expansionists.