Alberta, Canada
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American Badger
Taxidea taxus
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General Description

By Gustave J. Yaki

The American Badger, one of the larger members of the Weasel Family, has become increasingly rare throughout most of its range. This includes most of the central and southwestern half of North America, north from central Mexico to southeastern British Columbia; Alberta and Saskatchewan north to about the 54th parallel; southwestern Manitoba; and presumably still in extreme southwestern Ontario. It has a larger counterpart in the Old World.

Man is about the only enemy of this species. Besides hunting and trapping (the fur has little value), they also frequently are run over by vehicles. Perhaps the biggest reason for their decline is their fragmented landscape. Their main diet consists of ground squirrels. Colonies of those species are increasingly becoming further apart, therefore ready access to their food supply is decreasing.

Badgers appear to have a broad, flattened body. The effect is exaggerated by their short legs and the fringe of long guard hairs along the flanks. Their small head is broad between the ears and tapered to the pointed snout. The front feet are equipped with long, ivory-coloured toes, ideal for excavation. It is said that they are able to dig downward faster than two men armed with shovels can, in an attempt to get at them.

The face of this species is singularly attractive. A narrow white stripe runs from the tip of its nose to the back of the head. The rest of the snout and the top of the head is dark. White areas surround the eyes and ears (which are trimmed with black), with narrow black crescents between them. The back, sides and most of the relatively short tail are a grizzled grey, often with a ripple-like pattern. The feet and the tip of tail are dark.

Average measurements for British Columbia males which tend to be the largest Canadian subspecies are: length, 800 mm (28 in); tail, 142 mm (5.5 in); weight, 6 kg (13.2 lb). Females are smaller.

Badgers are solitary except during the mating season, August and September. They inhabit the open prairies, aspen parkland and farmlands, avoiding continuous woodlands, often trotting across long distances. Individuals in the northern part of their range are said to "hibernate", at least for the worst of the winter. More likely, it is just an extended sleep. Where they live near humans, they are primarily nocturnal, but if hungry may be seen abroad during the day. As previously alluded, they feed on rodents, mainly ground squirrels, obtained by digging them out of their den. Coyotes often follow them, perhaps in hope of catching the rodent as it comes out the back entrance. Other food items are pocket gophers, prairie-dogs, kangaroo rats, pocket mice and meadow voles. They also eat ground-nesting birds, snails, insects and sometimes carrion. Apparently they have a fondness for honey. There is also a report of one killing a rattlesnake.

After the late summer mating, the developing embryo goes into a restive stage, not implanting until mid-February. The two to five, blind young are born from late May to mid-April at the end of a 10 m (33 ft) long den, 3 m (10 ft) below ground. Their eyes open at 30 days. They are weaned when half-grown, eating food brought to the den by the mother, until she takes them out at night to hunt. The young frolic near the den mouth in early summer. They disperse when three-quarters grown. Some of the young females reach sexual maturity the first autumn, but most not until the next year.

Calgary sightings: Individuals are sighted from time to time in the rural vicinity of Calgary. Noteworthy is a winter report of one at Frank Lake, near High River, seen on 27 Feb. 2005.

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Where to find American Badgers in Alberta   

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