American Badger __FULL__
The American badger is a mid-sized (10 to 11 pounds), burrowing mammal of the weasel family that uses underground burrows for resting, denning, and prey caching. They are well-suited for burrowing and digging: they have large, powerful shoulders; stout front legs and feet; large front claws; and short ears. Their distinctly colored faces sport black patches over a white throat, chin, and cheeks.
American badgers are generally found in grassland, shrubsteppe, desert, dry forest, parkland, and agricultural areas. They require soils that allow the excavation of den sites and support burrowing prey species (such as ground squirrels).
American badgers forage underground by digging into the burrow systems of prey species, which commonly include ground squirrels, prairie dogs, marmots, and pocket gophers. Badgers also feed on carrion, insects, reptiles, and birds. Burrows excavated by American badgers are used by other bird and mammal species.
They are a solitary species, and they use large home ranges that may overlap with other American badgers of either sex. Gray wolves, coyotes, bears, and cougars are reported predators of American badgers, but for many populations, anthropogenic (man-made) causes (vehicle collisions, illegal shooting, and trapping) appear to be a more significant source of mortality.
In the spring, female badgers give birth to litters ranging from one to five kits. The young badgers stay in their grass-lined den, nursing until 3 months of age. Juveniles may emerge from the den as early as 2 months but stay with their mother until 5 to 6 months old.
The current distribution of American badgers includes portions of eastern Washington from the eastern Cascade foothills to the Idaho border. They have also been detected in the high-elevation parklands of the North Cascade Ecosystem.
In general, sensitivity of the American badger appears to be mostly driven by prey and habitat specialization. Badgers occur in shrub-steppe, grassland, semi-desert, and open forest habitats, require friable soils for digging, and prey primarily on ground squirrels, pocket gophers, and a variety of other small mammals. Warmer, drier conditions that lead to more frequent and hotter fires and/or encourage the growth of invasive plants (e.g., cheatgrass) may degrade or alter natural habitat for badgers by negatively impacting some prey species (e.g., ground squirrels). However, warmer and drier conditions may also allow grassland and prey expansion, especially at higher elevations, thereby possibly creating more habitat for badgers. Based on these conditions, badgers may decline in the Columbia Basin, but increase in the east Cascades and other eastside mountainous areas.
The American badger (Taxidea taxus)[n 1] is a North American badger similar in appearance to the European badger, although not closely related. It is found in the western, central, and northeastern United States, northern Mexico, and south-central Canada to certain areas of southwestern British Columbia.
The American badger's habitat is typified by open grasslands with available prey (such as mice, squirrels, and groundhogs). The species prefers areas such as prairie regions with sandy loam soils where it can dig more easily for its prey.
In Mexico, this animal is sometimes called tlalcoyote. The Spanish word for badger is tejón, but in Mexico this word is also used to describe the coati. This can lead to confusion, as both coatis and badgers are found in Mexico.
The American badger has most of the general characteristics common to badgers; with stocky and low-slung bodies with short, powerful legs, they are identifiable by their huge foreclaws (measuring up to 5 cm in length) and distinctive head markings.
American badgers possess morphological characteristics that enable them to be good fossorial specialists, such as a conical head, bristles on the ears, and nictitating membranes in the eyes. American badgers have powerful forelimbs. They also possess a strong humerus and large bony processes for the attachment of muscles. The mechanical advantage in badger forelimbs is increased by the specialized olecranon process and bones such as the radius and metacarpals.
Measuring generally between 60 and 75 cm (23.5 and 29.5 in) in length, males of the species are slightly larger than females. They may attain an average weight of roughly 6.3 to 7.2 kg (14 to 16 lb) for females and up to 8.6 kg (19 lb) for males. Northern subspecies such as T. t. jeffersonii are heavier than the southern subspecies. In the fall, when food is plentiful, adult male badgers can reach up to 11.5 to 15 kg (25 to 33 lb). In some northern populations, females can average 9.5 kg (21 lb).
Except for the head, the American badger is covered with a grizzled, brown, black and white coat of coarse hair or fur, giving almost a mixed brown-tan appearance. The coat aids in camouflage in grassland habitat. Its triangular face shows a distinctive black and white pattern, with brown or blackish "badges" marking the cheeks and a white stripe extending from the nose to the base of the head. In the subspecies T. t. berlandieri, the white head stripe extends the full length of the body, to the base of the tail.
The American badger is a fossorial carnivore. It preys predominantly on pocket gophers (Geomyidae), ground squirrels (Spermophilus), moles (Talpidae), marmots (Marmota), prairie dogs (Cynomys), pika (Ochotona), woodrats (Neotoma), kangaroo rats (Dipodomys), deer mice (Peromyscus), and voles (Microtus), often digging to pursue prey into their dens, and sometimes plugging tunnel entrances with objects. The American badger is a significant predator of snakes, including rattlesnakes, and is considered the most important predator of rattlesnakes in South Dakota. They also prey on ground-nesting birds, such as the bank swallow, or sand martin (Riparia riparia), and the burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), lizards, amphibians, carrion, fish, skunks (Mephitis and Spilogale), insects (including bees and honeycomb), and some plant foods, such as corn (Zea mais), peas, green beans, mushrooms and other fungi, and sunflower seeds (Helianthus).
American badgers are generally nocturnal; however, in remote areas with no human encroachment they are routinely observed foraging during the day. Seasonally, a badger observed during daylight hours in the spring months of late March to early May often represents a female foraging during daylight and spending nights with her young. Badgers do not hibernate but may become less active in winter. A badger may spend much of the winter in cycles of torpor that last around 29 hours. They do emerge from their burrows when the temperature is above freezing.
The American badger has been seen working with a coyote in tandem while hunting. Typically this pairing is one badger to one coyote; however, one study found about 9% of sightings included two coyotes to one badger, while 1% had one badger to three coyotes. Researchers have found that the coyote benefits by an increased catch rate of about 33%, and while it is difficult to see precisely how the badger benefits, the badger has been noted to spend more time underground and active. Badgers are also thought to expend less energy while hunting in burrows.
According to research, this partnership works due to the different hunting styles of the predators and how their prey reacts to them. A ground squirrel, upon spotting a coyote, will crawl into its hole to escape; while upon seeing a badger, the ground squirrel will climb out of its hole and use its speed to outrun the badger. Hunting in tandem raises the prey vulnerability and both predators win.
Badgers are normally solitary animals but are thought to expand their territories in the breeding season to seek out mates. Mating occurs in late summer and early fall, with some males breeding with more than one female. American badgers experience delayed implantation, with pregnancies suspended until December or as late as February. Young are born from late March to early April in litters ranging from one to five young, averaging about three.
Badgers are born blind, furred, and helpless. Eyes open at four to six weeks. The female feeds her young solid foods prior to complete weaning and for a few weeks thereafter. Young American badgers first emerge from the den on their own at five to six weeks old. Families usually break up and juveniles disperse from the end of June to August; young American badgers leave their mothers as early as late May or June. Juvenile dispersal movements are erratic.
Most female American badgers become pregnant for the first time after they are a year old. A minority of females four to five months old ovulate, and a few become pregnant. Males usually do not breed until their second year.
American badgers prefer grasslands and open areas with grasslands, which can include parklands, farms, and treeless areas with friable soil and a supply of rodent prey. They may also be found in forest glades and meadows, marshes, brushy areas, hot deserts, and mountain meadows. They are sometimes found at elevations up to 12,000 feet (3,700 m) but are usually found in the Sonoran and Transition life zones (which are at elevations lower and warmer than those characterized by coniferous forests). In Arizona, they occur in desert scrub and semi-arid grasslands. In California, American badgers are primarily able to survive through a combination of open grasslands of agricultural lands, protected land trust and open space lands, and regional and state and national park lands with grassland habitat. Badgers are occasionally found in open chaparral (with less than 50% plant cover) and riparian zones. They are not usually found in mature chaparral. In Manitoba aspen parklands, American badger abundance was positively associated with the abundance of Richardson's ground squirrels (Spermophilus richardsonii).In Ontario it primarily resides on the extreme southwestern portion of the province, restricted to the north shore of Lake Erie in open areas generally associated with agriculture and along woodland edges. There have been a few reports from the Bruce-Grey region. 041b061a72