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What kind of animal is a badger?

bullet Badgers are members of the Weasel family, related to wolverines, otters, fishers, martens, and minks. They are the only carnivore in Canada that burrows after and eats other burrowing animals. Badgers are important predators of pocket gophers, marmots, and ground squirrels, and they keep numbers of these rodents in check.
bullet The species of badger that occurs in North America is the North American badger (Taxidea taxus) - somewhat related, but quite different, to the European badger (Meles meles).

What do they look like?

bullet Badgers are very distinctive looking, especially their faces. Badgers have a noticeable white stripe that runs down the top of their head, often from the tip of their nose all the way to their shoulders! The black cheek patches (called “badges”) are how badgers get their name.
bullet Badgers are stout, shaggy animals that look very “flattened” because their hair is short on their backs and long on their sides.
bullet Badgers are about 60-90 cm (2-3 ft.) in length and generally weigh about 7-8 kg (15.4-17.6 lbs.) for adult females and 10-14 kg (22-30.8 lbs.) for adult males.
bullet An interesting fact about badger is that their forefeet are much larger than their hindfeet (unlike most mammals). This is because badgers dig for both food and shelter with their front feet, and they have huge front claws and small back claws to do this most efficiently. Don't worry - badgers do not use their claws as weapons!

Where do badgers live?

bullet In British Columbia, badgers are thought to live in the dry southern valleys that have grasslands, shrub-steppe habitats, or open forests of ponderosa pine or Douglas-fir.
bullet Badgers live a solitary existence, spending time together only during mating and when kits (badger babies) are still dependent upon their mothers.
bullet Badgers typically need two things to live in an area—lots of food to eat and places to dig their burrows.
bullet Badgers are amazingly powerful animals, capable of digging into the most hardened soil in pursuit of prey. Badgers dig incredibly quickly—up to a metre deep in a minute! Old badger burrows are also important for other creatures that can’t dig their own homes. The endangered burrowing owl is one such animal, but several rare snakes also use burrows for shelter.

What do they eat?

bullet Badgers are carnivores and they eat pretty much any small creature they can catch.
bullet Their favourite prey includes Columbian ground squirrels (often referred to as “gophers”), yellow-bellied marmots, and northern pocket gophers, but they also eat meadow voles, red-backed voles, grouse, and even the occasional rattlesnake!

bullet Badgers capture many of their prey by chasing them into burrows and digging out the hapless prey.

What makes them unique?

Badgers have several unique adaptations that make them interesting animals:

bullet They are the only true burrowing predator in Canada and are important for the control of burrowing rodents.
bullet Their abandoned burrows are used by the endangered burrowing owl as nesting sites.
bullet Other rare species use their abandoned burrows for homes, too - such as gopher snakes, rattlesnakes, and possibly rubber boas.

Why are badgers considered “endangered”?

The subspecies of badger found in British Columbia (jeffersonii subspecies) is classified as endangered because:

bullet Their habitat is being negatively affected by human development. Badgers seem to need some component of grassland to survive. Urban development and agriculture can reduce the suitability of these dwindling habitats for badgers.
bullet In the early 1900’s, badgers were widely persecuted because of the perception that they were an agricultural pest. Many landowners feared that the large burrows dug by badgers posed a threat to livestock. People tend to be more tolerant of badger burrows nowadays, but the populations probably did not fully recover.
bullet Many badgers die each year trying to cross busy highways, roads, and railway lines. Humans are still a great cause of death within badger populations in British Columbia.
bullet For more additional information about badgers, check out the “Wildlife in British Columbia At Risk” brochure on badgers.
bullet Also, check out the Parks Canada "Teachers' Corner" information on badgers.

 

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Last modified: 27/05/11