Definitions

American Badger

American Badger

The American Badger, Taxidea taxus, is a North American Badger, somewhat similar in appearance to the European Badger.

It is found in the western and central United States, northern Mexico and central Canada. They are found throughout southwestern British Columbia. This animal prefers dry open areas with deep soils that are easy to dig, such as prairie regions.

In Mexico, this animal is sometimes called "tlacoyote". The Spanish word for badger is "tejón", but in Mexico this word is also used to describe coatis. This can lead to confusion, for there are both coatis and badgers in Mexico.

Taxonomy

The American badger is a member of the Mustelidae, a diverse family of carnivorous mammals which also includes the weasel, ferret, and wolverine. The American Badger belongs to one of three sub-families of badgers, the other two being the Eurasian Badger and the Honey Badger. The American Badger's closest relative is the prehistoric Chamitataxus.

Recognized sub-species include: Taxidea taxus jacksoni, found in the western Great Lakes region; Taxidea taxus jeffersoni, on the west coast of Canada and the US; and Taxidea taxus berlandieri, in the south-western US and in northern Mexico.

Description

The American Badger has most of the general characteristics common to badgers; stocky and low-slung with short, powerful legs, they are identifiable by their huge foreclaws (measuring up to 5cm in length) and distinctive head markings. Measuring generally between 60 to 75 cm (23.6 to 29.5 inches) in length, males of the species are significantly larger than females (with an average weight of roughly 7 kg (15.5 pounds) for females and up to almost 9 kg (19.8 pounds) 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 exceed 11.5 kg (25.3 pounds).

Excluding the head, the American Badger is covered with a grizzled, silvery coat of coarse hair or fur. The American Badger's 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.

Behavior

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, 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. They also prey on ground-nesting birds such as bank swallow or sand martin (Riparia riparia) and burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), lizards, amphibians, carrion, fish, skunks (Mephitis and Spilogale), insects, including bees and honeycomb and some plant foods such as maize (Zea mais), peas, green beans, mushrooms and other fungi, and sunflower seeds (Helianthus).

They are mainly active at night, but may be active during the day. They do not hibernate, but 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 dens on warmer days.

Badgers are normally solitary animals for most of the year, but it is thought that in breeding season they expand their territories to actively seek out mates. Males may breed with more than one female. Mating occurs in the summer, but implantation is delayed and the young are born in an underground burrow during late winter. Litters consist of one to five offspring.

American badgers will sometimes form a symbiotic relationship with Coyotes. Because coyotes are not very effective at digging rodents out of their burrows, they will chase the animals while they are above ground. Badgers on the other hand are not fast runners, but are well-adapted to digging. When hunting together, they effectively leave little escape for prey in the area.

Further Information

They have few natural predators other than humans. The numbers of these animals has declined due to persecution by farmers and the extermination of many of their prey in agricultural areas. In May 2000, the Canadian Species at Risk Act listed both the American Badger jacksoni subspecies (Taxidea taxus jacksoni) and the jeffersonii subspecies (Taxidea taxus jeffersonii) as an endangered species in Canada.

References

  • Shefferly, N. 1999. "Taxidea taxus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 15, 2007 at University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
  • Whitaker, John O. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals. Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Long, Charles A. "Taxonomic Revision of the North American Badger, Taxidea taxus". Journal of Mammalogy 53 (4): 725–759.

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