One of the most fearsome creatures that you could find in your backyard that isn’t poisonous, is the Taxidea Taxus or the American Badger. I know what your thinking, why would you do the badger? Well first of all I love to say its name and how foreboding that name sounds. Badger. Another reason is that you hear people talk about them all the time but not really understanding this creature.
The badger is part of the family Mustelidae. This is the same family as otters, ferret, polecats, weasels and wolverines. This small, broad, and robust creature that has a reputation for being a bit of a grump.
And are easily identifiable by their colors of their backs which can range from grayish to redish with the identifiable stripes that range from their snout to the end of their necks. These beasties have short, stout, burly forearms with huge foreclaws to match. They don’t use them to run down victims but instead rooting rodents out of their dens by quickly and efficiently digging through the soil. The American badger seen here in Nevada, are solitary creatures but their European counterpart is actually quite a sociable species.
The badger tends to live in dry areas, wide open grasslands, fields, or even pastures. They are found from 3,600 meters, (high alpine) to below sea level (Death Valley, California). Unlike most mammals who hibernate in the winter, the badger is active in the winter except when very bad weather pushes them into torpor (a state of motor and mental inactivity). They are an opportunistic carnivore with a highly varied diet where the eat everything from small rodents like ground squirrels, to birds and their eggs, to even reptiles.
The are typically nocturnal but will hunt in the day if food is scarce. Their main way of hunting is by digging up creatures burrows and getting them then. Badgers have even been observed working in tandem with coyotes. Coyotes are not to good of diggers but they run well, making up for the the badgers lack of speed. The American badger is listed as least concern on the conservation status by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). It is listed as such because of its large range where it is relatively a common animal. As a badger, you do not have relatively any predators and humans are listed as the biggest threat to the american badger, usually by collisions on a road, habitat destruction, trapping, hunting, and poisoning. Other animals observed to go after badgers are golden eagles, bobcats, cougars, coyotes, or even gray wolves.
Badgers get a bad reputation because of badger holes where horses and cattle break legs in them. But they have such a huge positive impact for humans because badgers hunt rodents who could carry disease or damage crops. They even hunt and kill venomous snakes or eat insects, carrion is often on their menu as well. There are not many conservation efforts done for badgers because they are well off and are not hunted like other animals. Even if you do hunt badgers, it is illegal in some states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. It would seem like this species would have a particularly tough time reproducing but that just isn’t the case.
Badgers have great hearing, vision and scent. Scent being one of their strongest senses and each badger has a strong scent to go with them. Astonishingly enough, badgers are not territorial and their home ranges overlap.
Their range can extend from 2-725 hectares (1 hectare = 107639 square feet.) Female badgers usually mate around 4 months of and have offspring around their first year. While males only mate around autumn of year two.
Badgers mate in summer and early autumn months but embryos don’t start development until late December and February where their gestation period is approximately seven months. Badgers then give birth to a litter of 1-5 offspring whereas 3 is about the average per birth. Prior to giving birth, badgers line the inside of their dens with grasses. When born, they are blind and helpless with only a thin coat of fur. They can open their eyes within 4-6 weeks old, keep nursing from 2-3 months old, and when they turn into juveniles (5-6 months) they leave the nest for pastures (pun intended) anew.