American Badger, Taxidea taxus

Kingdom:  Animalia

Phylum:  Chordata

Class:  Mammalia

Order:  Carnivora

Family:  Mustelidae

Genus:  Taxidea

Species:  taxus

Status

American badgers are fairly common in specific habitats and are not generally considered threatened.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Status: Not Listed.  International Union for the Conservation of Nature Status: Least Concern; population decreasing.

Description

Badgers measure 20 to 35 inches from head to tail, with the tail making up only 3 to 5 inches of this length.  Badgers weigh 9 to 26 lbs.  The body is flattened, and the legs are short and stocky.  The throat and chin are whitish, and the face has black patches.  A white dorsal stripe extends back over the head from the nose.  Known to live up to 26 years in captivity, average wild lifespan is estimated between 4 and 10 years.

Habitat and Range

Badgers prefer to live in and around dry, open grasslands, fields, and pastures.  They are found from high alpine meadows to sea level. In the United States, the American badger can be found from the west coast to Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.  It is also found in southern Canada in British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Diet

Primarily carnivorous, eating small vertebrate mammals, birds, and reptiles.  Known to scavenge, and will also cache food.  In the local area badgers primarily hunt burrowing rodents and possibly rabbits.

Reproduction

Badgers, like black bears, exhibit delayed implantation: A female is technically pregnant for 7 months although gestation (when the embryo is implanted and developing) is a mere 6 weeks.  Litters consist of 1 to 5 offspring, with an average of 3, and are born in early spring.  Juveniles disperse at 5 to 6 months.  Badgers are not monogamous; they find a new mate every year.

Behavior

Badgers are solitary animals.  They 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.  A typical badger den may be as far as 9 feet below the surface, contain about 32 feet of tunnels, and have an enlarged chamber for sleeping.  Badgers use multiple burrows within their home territory, and they may not use the same burrow more than once a month.  They have no real predators as adults, but the young are vulnerable to many mammalian predators as well as eagles.  Escape into burrows is the most common defense.

Wow!

  • In the summer months they may dig a new burrow each day.
  • During torpor body temperatures fall to about 48 from 100 degrees and the heart beats at about half the normal rate.
  • Males are significantly larger than females and animals from northern populations are larger than those from southern populations.
  • There are anecdotal accounts of badgers emerging from holes they have excavated through blacktopped pavement and two inch thick concrete.
  • Life span: 4-10 years in wild, oldest in captivity was 26.