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Family Mustelidae : Taxidea taxus (Schreber)
This stout, shaggy animal is the largest of the weasel family with only the wolverine exceeding its size. Its coat is a grizzled gray to brown with a white stripe from upturned snout to shoulder. The tail is short, bushy and yellowish; the cheeks white with dark patches; the ears small and the feet dark with large fore-claws. The male is larger than the female weighing usually 7-25 pounds.
The badger prefers open plains, farmlands and the edge of woods. They range throughout southeast British Columbia and a study in 1990 concluded that only 300-1000 badgers likely existed.
American Badgers - Habitat
American Badgers are found mostly in grasslands, prairies, deserts and plains. They are reported to reside close to ground squirrels and prairie dogs habitats. These mammals are considered the main food source for the American Badger. Individual badgers have been found in mountains at a height of 10,000 ft (3,000 m).
In fact, American Badgers rarely reside in the same place for too long. This happens when an animal comes across areas full of prey. Basically, they are always on the move in search of available food. This constant travel makes it particularly hard to keep record of American Badgers and evaluate their density in areas.
2-5 blind young are born in March or April. They feed on squirrels, pocket gophers, rats and mice which they usually capture by digging out their burrows. They also eat birds, invertebrates, and carrion and are fond of rattlesnake; they are apparently unharmed by the venom unless the snake strikes its nose. A very ferocious animal, the badger has few enemies. Its hair is used to make the best quality paintbrushes and the coarse bristles were formerly used in shaving brushes. Forest succession and encroachment into grasslands is reducing the habitat of the badger, an animal vital in controlling rodent populations.
WARNING: BADGERS FIGHT BACK!
Badgers occupy a variety of habitats. In the United States, the American badger can be found from the west coast to Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. It is also found in southern Canada in British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
It ranges over most of Texas except for the extreme eastern part of the state, and recent records suggest it is expanding eastward as a result of land-clearing operations. Badgers are most common in the prairie and desert sections of the West, but limited numbers venture into the mountains where individuals have been seen or captured at elevations well above 3,000 m. In general, they occupy the entire range inhabited by ground squirrels and prairie dogs on which they rely in large measure for food. In Texas, they range from sea level, as on Padre Island, to at least 1,500 m in the Davis Mountains.
As suggested by the disproportional long front claws, badgers are expert diggers and their short, powerful front legs can move earth with amazing speed. A badger was encountered on Padre Island as it sought refuge in a shallow burrow in a sand bank. Three people, working frantically with shovels for more than an hour, were so outdistanced in their race to capture the animal they gave up.
It is a common belief badgers hibernate in winter, but such is not the case. They may sleep through several days of inclement weather, as do skunks and bears, subsisting on fat stored in the body, but they do not experience the physiological changes characteristic of true hibernation; namely, considerably reduced rate of respiration and heart beat, lowered body temperature, and insensibility. They are frequently encountered in winter, particularly on mild days, and in the southern parts of their range they are active throughout the entire year.
As indicated above, the chief food of badgers is ground squirrels. In addition, pocket gophers, kangaroo rats, other burrowing rodents, and cottontails are dug out, caught, and eaten. They also eat lizards, birds, eggs, insects, and occasionally carrion.
Badgers are ordinarily solitary except during the mating season. They breed in summer and early autumn. Males are probably polygamous and mate with more than one female. Implantation is delayed until between December and February, and the young are not born until March or April. Litter size ranges from one to five, averaging about three. The young are born in an underground nest and are lightly furred and blind at birth. The eyes open at 4 weeks, and weaning occurs at about 8 weeks of age, when the young are half grown. The young remain with their mother until late fall, when the family scatters.
Badgers have few natural enemies other than man. They are ferocious fighters and are usually more than a match for any dog. In one recorded instance a badger successfully defended itself in a fight with two coyotes.
The fur of the badger ordinarily does not command a high price and, because of this, relatively few are trapped. Data indicates the population is now increasing except in those parts of the animal's range where poison is used ostensibly to reduce the population of coyotes. The badger's chief value lies in helping to keep down the excessive population of rodents.
Photo credit: R. D. Porter.
American Badgers - Diet
American Badgers feed primarily on small animals, such as ground squirrels, cottontails, kangaroo rats, mice, and other burrowing rodents. They also prey on lizards, birds, their eggs, and insects. It is known that American Badgers use carrion sometimes as food.
Generally, this type of food is available throughout the year. The amounts differ from season to season. Thus, American Badgers enjoy prey availability mostly in spring and summer. In case the hunting sessions turned out to be a success and there is excessive amounts of food, an American Badger will store it in its den to use later. Winter periods are a challenge for the American Badger. The shortage of food makes American Badgers spend lots of time in the burrow to avoid heat loss.
These pigeon-toed creatures have powerful feet and long claws on the front paws which are prominent in most prints. The foot is made up of a series of small pads. During the winter the body of the badger drags on the snow leaving a trough of sorts.
Straddle: 10 - 18 cm (4 - 7 in)
Stride: 15 - 30 cm (6 - 12 in)
Track: Front - 6 cm (2.4 in) long / 5 cm (2 in) wide
Track: Rear - 5 cm (2 in) long / 5 cm (2 in) wide
The badger is one of Britain's best loved wild animals. It is common in Southern England and the estimated population within the Metropolitan Police District is in the thousands. Every badger and every sett (burrow) is protected by law. Nevertheless, badgers are threatened by illegal snaring, poisoning and particularly the activities of badger baiters who dig them from their setts before taking them to fight with dogs.
American Badgers have been known for a long time. Yet, close habitation with man did not always turn out to be beneficial to both. Particularly, badgers were considered malignant creatures that had to be destroyed with all means possible, including trapping, shooting, and other ways.
In fact, most damage caused resulted from badger burrows. They were rather dangerous for livestock and horsemen. By having stepped into a badger burrow, animals rarely escaped injuries. Besides, numerous burrows with long tunnels were a problem for farmers. Badger holes harmed crop fields and led to harvest losses. Machines also suffered from badger activity.
Moreover, badgers prey on livestock. Not even a high fence could prevent a badger from reaching a kill. Digging under a fence made way for these carnivores and resulted in livestock damage. Thus, the American Badger populations had to be controlled. This led to significant species destruction and reduced the number of badgers in some regions to the point of extermination.
The American Badger is not on the endangered species list in most US states. The species is more at risk in Canada. Since 1967 trapping, shooting, selling fur, or other means of damaging the American Badger have been considered illegal. Nevertheless, a long-term annihilation of the species that took place in the first half of the 20th century has never been managed. In 1999, the American Badger was placed on Canada's Red List of endangered species.
The badger is well-protected from predators. Its muscular neck and thick, loose fur protect it when it is captured by a predator. This gives the badger time to turn on the predator and bite and claw it. When a badger is attacked, it also uses vocalizations. It hisses, growls, squeals and snarls, and releases an unpleasant musk that may drive a predator away.
The oldest wild badger on record lived to be 14, and several aged between 8 and 10 have been known, while in captivity, one badger is known to have reached 26 years of age.
There are NO badger recipes that I could find. However, I did find a reference of a farmer who tried to feed cooked badger meat to his hogs. They wouldn't eat it. Hogs are not gourmets, so if they won't eat it, neither will I.
If you see a badger in the woods, leave it alone, wave, and go somewhere else.
Badgers and neither cute nor cuddly. They stink and fight like tigers if cornered. Just leave them alone, and you'll be just fine. They have not ever been known to attack humans.