Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

Species Spotlight: American Badger

May 24, 2011, 9:05 am

Often lumped in with weasels and rodents, badgers are often misunderstood creatures. Badgers have short, muscular legs that are extremely powerful and used for digging deep into the earth. The animals use their burrows for both shelter and protection. American badgers tend to be solitary animals and are most active during the night.

Badgers can be found in a variety of states across the U.S. and in Canada. They tend to live in areas such as fields, pastures, grasslands or on the outskirts of forests. Badgers are generally more active in summer than winter. These critters are common in the Midwest and can be found as far west as Oregon.

Although badgers may not appear threatening, they are equipped with sharp teeth. These omnivores have a wide diet but prefer smaller prey, such as mice, gophers, squirrels, chipmunks and worms. They will also feast on nuts and fruits when available. An average animal weights 10 to 25 pounds and is about two feet in length, from head to tail.

Badgers produce one to five offspring and this is one of the few times during a badger’s life when it will remain in the same burrow. If without young, badgers can change burrows as often as they choose. When a badger feels threatened it will defend itself by hissing and bearing its teeth.

When first discovered, badgers were hunted for their fur. However, these creatures often avoided excessive trapping because their fur was considered less desirable than that of other animals. Their shiny, gray coats are durable yet not as colorful. Often, their thin hairs were used to make fine quality paintbrushes.

There are few natural predators of badgers, with humans causing the most harm. Trapping, habitat destruction, automobile fatalities and poisoning by farmers are a few of the ways adult badgers meet untimely ends. The badger has a lifespan from 5-12 years, with animals living longer in captivity. These critters make their homes in underground burrows, so be careful where you step while out hiking.

FUN FACTS

It is speculated that the name badger derives from the badge-like marking on the animal’s forehead.

The American badger is actually much smaller than its relative, the Eurasian badger.

Bucky Badger is the official mascot of the University of Wisconsin.

While in office, Theodore Roosevelt had a pet badger named Josiah that he picked up in Kansas.

NPS photo by Sally King