Angry North American Badger, Taxidea taxus

American Badger Profile

  Preferred Habitat

Badgers are found primarily in the Great Plains region of North America. Badgers occur north through the central western Canadian provinces, in appropriate habitat throughout the western United States, and south throughout the mountainous areas of Mexico. They have expanded their range since the turn of the 20th century and are now found as far east as Ontario, Canada.

Badgers prefer to live in dry, open grasslands, fields, and pastures. They are found from high alpine meadows to sea level

Badgers produce ecological benefits in controlling rodent populations and in providing burrow refuge habitat for burrowing owls, which also help to control small mammal populations in prairie and agricultural lands.

  Description

American Badger
Taxidea taxus
Lifespan 14 years
Weight 14-16 pounds
Length 20 - 35 inches
Color Back and flanks are
grayish to reddish.
White dorsal stripe
from head to nose
Sexual Maturity Sow (F): 1 year
Boar (M): 2 years
Mating Behavior Polgymy
Gestation Period 6 months
Litter Size 1-4 cubs/kits
Adult Predators Bobcats, golden eagles,
cougars, wolves, and bears

The American Badger is a mammal with a low profile, having a comparably small and pointed head. The badger is coated with fur, its ears are small and its tail is fluffy. American badgers’ body is flat with squabby legs. Back and the flanks can have different colors from reddish to gray while ventral parts are mainly ocher color.

The facial features of badgers are distinctive with a white-colored chin and throat and black spots on the face. Another distinctive feature of badgers is the white stripe on its back, covering the nose and nape. In northern populations, this stripe ends near the shoulders. In southern populations, however, it continues over the back to the rump.

Males are significantly larger than females and animals from northern populations are larger than those from southern populations.

  They Are Digging Machines

Badgers are excellent digging machines. Their powerfully built forelimbs allow them to tunnel rapidly through the soil, and apparently through other harder substances as well. There are anecdotal accounts of badgers emerging from holes they have excavated through blacktopped pavement and 2-inch thick concrete.

Their burrows are constructed mainly in the pursuit of prey, but they are also used for sleeping. A typical badger den may be as far as 10 feet below the surface, contain about 10 feet of tunnels, and have an enlarged chamber for sleeping. Badgers use multiple burrows within their home range, and they may not use the same burrow more than once a month. In the summer months they may dig a new burrow each day.

  Communication

North American Badger powerful legs and claws for digging.

Badgers have keen vision, scent, and hearing. They have nerve endings in the fore claws that may make them especially sensitive to touch in their forepaws, but this has not been investigated. Not much is known about communication in these normally solitary animals, but it is likely that home ranges are marked with scents that are used by conspecifics to determine reproductive readiness.

  American Badger Vocalizations

The badger's vocal repertoire consists of at least 16 discrete calls, varying from long, low pitched growls to short, high-pitched squeaks and bird-like coos. Churrs, purrs, and keckers seem to be restricted to adults only, while chirps, clucks, coos, squeaks and wails are confined to the badger cub's repertoire. The remaining calls may be expressed by both adults and cubs.

During the mating season the most frequently heard calls are the male churrs and the female yelps.

  Diet

American badgers are fossorial carnivores that often dig to pursue prey into their dens, and sometimes plug tunnel entrances with objects. Their usual ration consists of voles, deer mice, wood rats, prairie dogs, gophers, squirrels, moles, marmots, birds, and even insects.

Unlike many carnivores that stalk their prey in open country, badgers catch most of their food by digging. They can tunnel after ground dwelling rodents with amazing speed. They have been known to cache food.

  Behavior

Badgers are solitary animals. Typical population density is about 5 animals per square kilometer. Badgers are mainly active at night, and tend to be inactive during the winter months.

They are not true hibernators, but spend much of the winter in cycles of torpor that usually last about 29 hours. During torpor body temperatures fall to about 45° F and the heart beats at about half the normal rate. They emerge from their dens on warm days in the winter.

  Mating and Reproduction

North American Badger sow with cubs.

The home ranges of both male and female badgers expands during the breeding season, indicating that males and females travel more extensively to find mates. Males have larger home ranges that are likely to overlap with the home ranges of several females.

Mating occurs in late summer or early autumn but embryos are arrested early in development. Implantation is delayed until December or as late as February. After this period embryos implant into the uterine wall and resume development. So, although a female is technically pregnant for 7 months, gestation is a mere 6 weeks.

Litters of 1 to 5 offspring, with an average of 3, are born in early spring. Females are able to mate when they are 4 months old, but males do not mate until the autumn of their second year. Most females mate after their first year.

  Predation

North American Badger emerging from den.

Natural predation on badgers is rare, with young animals being most vulnerable. The primary predators of badgers are humans who are responsible for habitat destruction, trapping, hunting, automobile fatalities, and poisoning. Other reported predators of American badgers include golden eagles, bobcats, cougars, and coyotes. Bears and gray wolves may also take badgers.

  Do Badgers Make Good Pets?

Badgers do not make good pets as they are very aggressive and hugely destructive. These animals are immensely powerful diggers and, as opportunistic foragers, have their sensitive noses in everything. Anything they cannot reach they dig for. Carpets, furniture, flower beds – all are ravaged. The badger's place is in the wild, where it plays an important role as a small predator and omnivore.

More Species Profiles:

 Beavers — Nature's Hydrologist, Part 2
 Garter Snakes — The Gardener's Friend
 Wisconsin Native Salamanders
 Goundhog or Woochuck: All The Facts
 Voles, Both The Good and The Bad

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