Endangered Species in Focus: American Badger (Taxidea taxus)

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Description:

These nighttime loving carnivores are short and stocky with distinctive black and white markings on their face.  The American Badger is relative of the weasel family and is the only type of badger that lives in North America. Large males weigh up to 26 lbs.

Badgers are built for digging. Their dens can be up to 3 metres underground and contain up to 10 metres of tunnels, with a large chamber for sleeping. Badgers have long strong claws and a streamlined skull enabling them to create these dens and dig prey out of burrows, such as groundhogs, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and mice.

Solitary for most of the year, adult males and females only get together to mate in late summer, when females are in peak condition and are most fertile.

 

Status:

  • Endangered Provincially and Nationally

 

Important Dates:

June 30, 2008: Species listed as endangered

Feb. 18, 2010: Species granted habitat protection

 

Range:

  • Ranges from California and Texas to the Great Lakes region. In Canada, the badger is found in southern British Columbia, all the prairie provinces and Ontario;
  • In Ontario, the badger is found primarily in the southwestern part of the province, close to Lake Erie. There are thought to be fewer than 200 in Ontario;
  • They have very large territories for their size; some badger families can range over several thousand acres to find enough food.

 

Habitat:

  • Found in a variety of habitats, such as tall grass prairies, sand barrens and farmland;
  • Since badgers are primarily nocturnal and quite wary of people, not many people are fortunate enough to spot one in the wild. They are often on the move and will usually only stay in one area for a few nights before moving on;
  • Badgers need habitats with deep top soils. This makes it easier for them to burrow and make dens.

 

Threats:

  • They have few natural enemies in Ontarion (possibly coyotes), and the main threats are habitat loss and susceptibility to being hit by cars;
  • Populations used to be as big as 20,000 individuals in some areas; however, badgers are losing their homes rapidly as land is cleared for farms and houses

 

What You Can Do to Help:

  • Badgers depend on healthy grassland habitat such as tallgrass prairie. Unfortunately, tallgrass prairie is increasingly rare throughout the province. Visit Tallgrass Ontario’s website here to learn more;
  • At EarthRangers.com you can start a fundraising campaign that will support environmental education and conservation efforts to help – this project will support the installation of signs along trails around Lake Erie, which will raise awareness to the American Badger;
  • If you find a badger den on your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats;
  • Visit the following links to learn more about the American Badger:

o   American Badger Ontario Recovery Strategy Series

o   Species at Risk Public Registry

o   IUCN Red List

o   Animal Diversity: University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

 

FUN FACTS:

  • Badgers have a second eyelid which can be closed to protect their eyes from dirt. This eyelid is called the “nictitating membrane”
  • If cornered, the American badger will growl, squeal, and show their teeth. When threatened, badgers release a foul smelling musk to drive off enemies;
  • The den of the badger only has one entrance. That way, if the animal feels threatened, it will back into the den;
  • Badgers are mainly nocturnal, but seldom can be seen in the day;
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