ALL ABOUT BADGERS
The American Badger is a small carnivore that lives in open forests and grasslands. Badgers are part of the Weasel (or "Mustelid") family and are close cousins to otters, wolverines, and minks. They are mostly a grizzled greyish-tan all over and are clearly identifiable by their low, compact stature and the distinctive black-and-white stripes on their heads and face. Though badgers are mostly solitary, baby badger kits will stay with their mother for approximately six months before leaving. The British Columbia subspecies of the American Badger is found in the dry forests and grasslands of the Thompson, Okanagan, Nicola, East Kootenay and Boundry regions. Despite this range, badgers are critically endangered in BC - the number of badgers left in the entire province is estimated at only about 250 individuals!
There are only ~30 badgers left in the entire Okanagan Valley
What's on the menu?
Badgers are voracious predators of many household and farm pests. A fully grown badger will usually catch two prey items every day and females with young will catch even more! Even though ground squirrels and gophers are usually their favourite prey items badgers are not picky and will also eat mice, rats, birds, voles and moles.
Why are badgers endangered?
There are many reasons why we have lost most of our BC badgers over the decades, but the most critical threats to badgers now are:
Habitat Loss: Badgers live in grasslands and dry open forests, which are the same habitats that are often developed for agricultural or urban use.
Road Mortality: Due to their small size and wandering habits, many badgers die each year trying to cross highways, roads, and railways.
Lack of Prey: Although mice, ground squirrels and gophers can be pests, they are still important parts of the food chain. Badgers can have difficulty finding food when extensive pest control takes place.
Human Persecution: Badgers are still sometimes mistakenly identified as agricultural pests and are persecuted. This is illegal, as badgers are a protected species.
What traces do badgers leave?
Because they are so elusive and prefer to avoid contact with humans, the presence of a badger is often confirmed by the presence of their burrows. Badgers are super diggers and can dig huge burrows up to 9 metres (30 ft) long and up to 3 metres (10 ft) deep! Entrances are about the size and shape of a football and have a large, fan-shaped pile of dirt on the doorstep. Badger burrows can also be mistaken for coyote and fox dens, but those dens are taller than they are wide. Sometimes, coyotes, foxes and bears will expand an existing badger burrow.
Badger tracks are sometimes seen around burrows and can be distinguished
from other animals by the fact that they have five toes and have distinctive
claw marks at the tips of their toes. Coyotes and wild cats only have four toes.
Because they eat so many rodents, badgers are very negatively affected by rodenticides (rat poison). If a badger eats a mouse that was poisoned, the badger will get poisoned as well and could die.
How can I help badgers?
Keep badger habitat intact. Open forests and grasslands are critically important for badgers. Keeping these habitats undeveloped and healthy can help ensure badgers survive in BC.
Avoid rodenticides. Poisoned rodents don't die right away and often become sick and slow. If caught by helpful predators like badgers, the poison in the rodent hurts the predator too.
Be attentive while driving and advocate for wildlife-friendly roads. Road mortality is the number one cause of death for BC badgers. Underpasses and overpasses help badgers avoid roads entirely.
Report burrows and sightings! More information about badgers can help create better conservation strategies for them.
The name Badger comes from the black patches, or"badges" they have on their face and head.
Badger front claws are nearly three inches long. These claws, plus their strong forelimbs, make them the fastest digging mammal on Earth - they can dig at a speed of 3 feet (1 m) per minute!
When hunting, badgers use rocks, sticks, and clods of dirt to block the exits of rodent burrows, ensuring their prey can't escape when the badger is trying to dig it out.
Badgers are frequently seen hunting cooperatively with coyotes. The badger's digging speed plus coyote's above-ground speed makes them very successful gopher-hunting team.