Because most animals copulate surreptitiously, estimates of male and female copulatory success are elusive. Here I describe six distinctive behaviors that coincide with underground copulations of Gunnison's prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni): the underground consortship itself, inordinate male attention toward the estrous female, self-licking of genitals, dustbathing, the mating call, and late final submergence of the estrous female. These diagnostic behaviors allowed me to identify sexual partners for 308 females that came into estrus during a 7-year study.

Author notes

Associate Editor was Robert K. Rose.