American Badgers

(Taxidea taxus)
Badger with baby 520x289

Appearance

Badgers measure 18-22 inches head and body with a tail 4-6 inches long.  They weigh 13-25 pounds with the males being larger than the females.  They have a flattened body with short, stocky legs.  The fur on the back and sides range from yellowish-gray to reddish with a buffy color belly.  The face is very distinct with a whitish throat and chin and a median white stripe from the nose over the top of the head.  The face has black patches with a black spot in front of each ear.  Badgers have black feet with 5 toes that have extremely long claws.

Habitat

Badgers live in dry, open grasslands, fields, and pastures. They can also live in deserts and marshes.  They are found from high alpine meadows to sea level.

Habits

Mostly nocturnal, but can be seen being active in early morning.  They are mostly solitary animals and spend much of their winter sleeping, but are not true hibernators.  They emerge from their dens or setts on warm days in the winter.  

Badgers are fantastic at digging!  Their forelimbs allow them to tunnel rapidly through soil and other harder substances.  The badger sett usually consists of a network of tunnels with numerous entrances.  The dens are constructed mainly in pursuit of prey, but are also used for sleeping.  Badgers use multiple burrows within their home range and may not use the same burrow more than once a month.

Badgers are elusive, shy mammals who do not tolerate people well.  When threatened, a badger will become defensive.  Females are particularly protective of their young.  When frightened, they will release a musky scent or a skunk like scent.

Diet

Badgers are carnivores.  Their dominate prey are rodents such as pocket gophers, ground squirrels, moles, prairie dogs, woodrats, deer mice, and voles. May also eat ground nesting birds, lizards, carrion, fish, and insects.  Badgers catch most of their food by digging and will sometimes cache food for later.

Reproduction

Badgers are polygynandrous (promiscuous) with males having larger home ranges that overlap with the home ranges of several females.  Home ranges are from 1 to 10 square km.  

Mating occurs in late summer/early autumn but the embryonic development is delayed until December or possibly as late as February.l  After this delay, the embryos implant into their mother's uterine wall and resume development.  So although a female is pregnant for 7 months, embryonic development is done in a short 6 weeks!  Sows give birth to an average of 3 cubs in early spring.  Females usually mate after their first year with males not mating until the autumn of their second year.

Female badgers prepare a grass-lined den to give birth. The young are born blind and helpless with a thin coat of fur.  The eyes of the cubs open at 4-6 weeks and are nursed by their mother until they are 2-3 months old. Solid foods are given before they are weaned and for a few weeks after they are weaned.  The young may emerge from the den at 5-6 weeks of age and will leave their mother when they are 5-6 months old.

Facts About American Badgers

Belong to the family Mustelidae which includes otters, weasels, and wolverines   

The lower jaws are articulated to the upper and are firmly locked into long cavities of the skull; dislocation of jaw is almost impossible enabling them to have a very tight hold on prey 
 
Female badgers are called "sows" and male badgers "boars" 
 
A badger's home is called a 'sett'