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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Don’t Badger Badger | 11-10-2016
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Commentary by Linda Castro
| Thursday, Nov 10, 2016

LindaCastroThe American Badger (Taxidea taxus) is a North American badger that has a rather large range – from as far east as Ohio, into portions of Canada and Mexico and all of the western states.

The American badger has a flat body with short, stout legs and a triangular face with a long, pointed, tipped-up nose. It has shaggy brown or black fur with white stripes on its cheeks and one stripe running from its nose to the back of its head. It has small ears on the side of its head and long, sharp front claws. Badgers weigh between about eight and a half pounds to about 26 pounds and range from about 21-35 inches long.

The habitat of the American badger is highly variable. Badgers are found in relatively dry, open country with little vegetation such as open plains, prairies, dry grasslands and deserts. Their diet consists mostly of small rodents such as squirrels, rats, mice and gophers. They also eat snakes, birds and reptiles. They dig their prey out of the ground with their front claws. Badgers will sometimes dig into the burrow of an animal and wait for it to return.

Badgers live in burrows and dens. Burrows can be as large as 32 feet long and about 10 feet deep. They usually use several different dens and burrows and will sometimes move to different ones each day, except when they have babies. Badger burrows typically have one entrance with a pile of dirt next to it. When badgers feel threatened, they typically move back into their den or burrow and bare their teeth and claws. They may then plug the hole to their burrow.

badger03Badgers are primarily nocturnal. They generally forage at night and remain underground during the day. They are expert diggers. Their powerful legs enable them to dig with great speed, allowing them to disappear from sight very quickly.

There are stories of badgers emerging from holes they have dug through blacktopped pavement and two-inch thick concrete. While those stories may be tall tales, when one witnesses the strength of a badger’s legs and claws, you want to believe the stories.

Badgers also have a third eyelid, known as a nictitating membrane, which protects their eyes from soil. They have poor eyesight but have acute hearing and sense of smell.

badger02Badgers do not hibernate, but instead reduce above-ground activity by entering a state of torpor (decreased physiological activity, usually by a reduced body temperature and metabolic rate) in times of bad weather, and they survive on fat reserves when prey is scarce.

Badgers are solitary animals except during breeding season (July and August). A female can have a litter of one to five young which are usually born in March. The young are weaned by the time they are 8 weeks old; they leave their mother when they are about 5 or 6 months old.

badger01Badgers have strong neck muscles and thick, loose fur, which helps them to turn on their predators and bite and claw them. When badgers are attacked, they hiss, growl, squeal and snarl and release an unpleasant musk that drives many predators away. The principal predators of badgers are humans who are responsible for habitat destruction, trapping, hunting, automobile fatalities and poisoning. Other reported predators include golden eagles, bobcats, mountain lions and coyotes.

The average life span of a badger is four to 10 years in the wild.

While badgers might appear to be cute and cuddly, they are anything but. There is a reason we use the word “badger” to mean “persistently bother” or annoy someone. If you come across a badger or a burrow, it is best to leave it alone unless you want to find out first-hand how sharp and strong its teeth and claws are.

 

Linda Castro is a nature enthusiast and animal lover.  She is the Desert Field Organizer for the California Wilderness Coalition and serves on the board of the SCV-based Community Hiking Club.  Her commentaries relate to California’s deserts.

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. Chad Nicholas Hildebrand

  2. Dena says:

    My Dachshunds aren’t worried. They were built to take them on 😎

  3. Ken Clark Ken Clark says:

    First badger I ever saw was 10 years ago at the lower lake at Castaic. Never knew their range extended here. It was a shock! I hope to see one again.

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