THE AMERICAN BADGER

Sports enthusiasts will recognize the American badger as the mascot of the University of Wisconsin, chosen because of its ferocious demeanor. The American badger is a predator and therefore a carnivore, feasting primarily on rodents such as prairie dogs, but they also will take rabbits, birds, and snakes. Badgers are in the weasel family and as such can emit a very strong scent which it uses on the rare occasions it gets cornered. Badgers are (likely incorrectly) said to hunt side-by-side with coyotes, but more likely coyotes hunt near badgers after learning that badgers are capable of rapidly digging out burrows of potential prey species.

Solitary, except during summer breeding season, badgers employ a suspended development of their embryos; they wait until winter months for the fetus to begin development and then give birth to 1-5 offspring. Although technically the females are pregnant for 7 months, the actual gestation period is only 6 weeks. Young are born blind in deep and very long multi-chambered burrows. Multiple burrows are dug and often rotated periodically.

Powerful claws are used for digging burrows and also for defense and they have been documented keeping mountain lions at bay. During winter months, American badgers are not true hibernators but often enter torpor (mental and motor inactivity) for 29 hours at time when outside conditions prevent them from active feeding. Although mostly nocturnal, American badgers are seen in daylight hours like the one pictured moving to a seep to drink. I was downwind and motionless in my vehicle.

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