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  • Sensitive claws in the badger's forepaws enable them to quickly dig out prey living in burrows.

  • Mother badgers continue to guide and fiercely defend their young until they are 5 or 6 months old.

  • Badgers are known to have keen vision, hearing, and sense of smell, making them skillful hunters.

  • Badgers sleep and rest in their burrows year-round and take refuge in them in harsh winter weather.

  • The badger's characteristic white stripe extends from the forehead to the neck or shoulders.

  • Badgers create burrow systems with thirty or so feet of tunnels and multiple sleeping chambers.

American badgers live in dry, open grasslands, fields, pastures, and meadows throughout the western United States, ranging southward through mountainous parts of Mexico and northward through Canada’s central western provinces. They are found in a wide range of altitudes, from alpine meadows to below sea level in Death Valley. At the Allranch Wildlife Sanctuary in Hidalgo County, New Mexico, badgers find the open habitat and burrow-friendly conditions they need and safety from human-caused harm.

Built low-to-the-ground, these stocky, muscular animals measure 20" to 35” in length and weigh 9 to 26 pounds. They have short, powerful legs, strong—yet sensitive—paws, and long claws, all of which help them with digging their prey out of burrows and excavating their own burrows. The wide range in length and weight reflects gender and geographic differences. Males are larger than females, and animals living at northern latitudes are larger than those living farther south.

Threats to their safety and wellbeing

Threats to badgers include conversion of grasslands to development and intensive agriculture, forest encroachment into grasslands as a result of fire suppression, persecution of their prey animals, death from vehicle collisions, and deliberate shooting or poisoning. Vehicle deaths are especially numerous, as badgers tend to hunt ground squirrels near roads. Fortunately few badgers are targeted by trappers for their fur, as there is little economic incentive.

Golden eagles, bobcats, cougars, wolves, bears, and coyotes prey upon badgers, but humans are most lethal for them. While American badgers are protected from hunting in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and British Columbia, they face several human-caused hazards, so in some places their numbers are decreasing.

How they spend their time

Badgers may be active at any time, but they are mostly nocturnal. When not active, they tend to stay in their burrows. They prefer to stay in a relatively small home area, especially in winter. Though they are not true hibernators, severe weather may send them into their burrows to sleep for days or weeks. Burrows for raising their young have several entrances and softly lined chambers. And, if badgers need to make a quick escape from a predator and can’t find a nearby burrow, they need to be able to dig one on the spot, so their habitat must have soil that’s easily excavated. They also use burrows for naps. Badgers bear from one to five young in early spring, and they are independent by five or six months.

If badgers feel threatened, they may hiss and bare their teeth and claws, but usually while backing up, because they prefer to avoid confrontation. Sometimes you may see badgers with coyotes, as they have been known to play or pursue ground squirrels together. Their prey includes ground squirrels and other burrowing rodents, such as pocket gophers, kangaroo rats, prairie dogs, voles, and mice. They also eat scorpions, insects, snakes, lizards, amphibians, fish, and ground-nesting birds, such as bank swallows and burrowing owls. By controlling rodent and insect populations badgers help humans, and rabbits and others in their ecosystem benefit from badgers’ vacant burrows.

 

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