Badger

Taxidea taxus taxus (Schreber)

 

 

 

 

Badger photo courtesy of Robert R. Patterson

Description:   The badger is the largest terrestrial member of its family found in Kansas. It can be distinguished by: 1) dorso-ventrally flattened body, 2) short, stout legs with black or brown feet, 3) strongly built, long, and recurved claws on the forefeet, and webs of skin between the front toes, 4) short and straight claws on the hind feet, 5) long, shaggy, grizzled gray-brown, dorsal fur with a white stripe down the middle of the head extending onto the neck and continuing for a variable length down the middle of the back, 6) black face with white patches of fur beneath and behind the eyes, 7) short bushy tail, and 8) small, rounded ear.

Size:   Adults may attain the following dimensions: total length 656-787 mm; tail 104-150 mm; hind foot 98-127 mm; ear 45-56 mm; weight 4.6-7.3 kilograms.


Photo courtesy of
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Images Library
Range and Habitat:   The badger ranges throughout most of Kansas. It is rare in forested portions of the eastern part of the state, and may be absent from the southeastern tier of counties. It seems to reach its greatest abundance in rolling grasslands in the central part of the state, especially where the soil is sandy.

Reproduction:   Mating occurs when female badgers enter estrous in late summer or early autumn. Following fertilization the embryos undergo some development, but this ceases during winter. development begins again in February, and one to five (usually four) young are born in April or May after a gestation period of approximately eight months. At birth they are scantily furred and their eyes are closed. their eyes open at about four weeks, and by eight weeks of age the young are weaned to solid food. From late August through September the offspring learn to hunt alone, and disperse from the female's home range.

  Females may breed in the autumn following their birth, but are usually at least a year old before breeding. Males do not breed until their second year.

Habits:   Badgers are primarily nocturnal during summer and early autumn, becoming active after sunset and returning to their dens before sunrise. At other times of the year they are both nocturnal and diurnal, but tend to avoid activity during the hottest part of the day. Home ranges vary seasonally and, probably, with different habitats. Home ranges in the summer vary from 480 to 630 hectares. During autumn badgers use a much smaller home range (36 to 39 hectares) intensively, and in winter only areas adjacent to the den are used (1.2 to 1.5 hectares). During the summer badgers may move over a kilometer or two while foraging, and use different dens within their home range on successive nights. In autumn their daily movements may cover only 0.2 kilometers. In winter their foraging may be sporadic and only extend 250 meters from the winter den. Home ranges of badgers may overlap, especially in summer, but they are considered solitary animals except during the breeding season. Population densities of 0.3 to 0.9 per square hectare have been suggested for the badger.

  Badgers frequently construct their own dens but may modify woodchuck or prairie dog burrows. Dens frequently have a single opening, although some have multiple entrances. There is usually a large mound of dirt in front of the entrance. The den tunnel is 150 to 200 mm high, 230 to 380 mm; wide, and 0.3 to 0.6 meters below the ground. There may be several side tunnels connected to the main tunnel and a circular central chamber approximately 0.6 meters in diameter. Badgers do not appear to gather nesting materials. During severe weather the badger may block its tunnel entrance.

Food:   The badger eats mostly small and medium-sized burrowing mammals. Pocket gophers, prairie dogs, thirteen-lined and Franklin's ground squirrels, voles, and deer mice are major prey, and wild rabbits and insects are also eaten on occasion. Their diet differs seasonally and geographically with prey availability.

Remarks:   Badgers are major predators of burrowing mammals. They are well equipped for digging with their long, curved front claws and heavily muscled shoulders and forelimbs. Maximum longevity of the badger in the wild is probably not more than four or five years, but it may live up to fifteen years in captivity.


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