Most people are unaware that badgers live in our area. They are rarely seen, and they don’t look like the typical ‘badger’ photos that you might see on television or in books, usually the European Badger. Missouri & Illinois and much of the Midwest is home to the North American Badger. The badger was built to dig…and dig they do! They build elaborate tunnel systems in the ground in amazingly short periods of time and can out-dig many of our other native diggers like groundhogs, and skunks. Some badger tunnels have been recorded as deep as 30 feet! Badgers prefer to live in big open plains, pastures or hay fields. Full grown they weigh roughly twenty pounds, with short little legs that barely show when they walk. They are very flat to the ground and quite wide from left to right. Badgers have strong, powerful claws designed for quick digging when trying to evade a predator or go after its own prey – mice, rats, moles, rabbits, snakes, shore birds, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and groundhogs. They are nocturnal animals but will come out during the day if the mood strikes them or if they get hungry enough. Badgers are strictly carnivores and they have been known to strike up ‘friendships’ with coyotes and wolves to catch and take down prey. If you have a badger on your property, or know of one nearby, consider yourself lucky. The badger is listed on many Midwestern States’ Endangered Species lists due to their loss of habitat in recent years. In 2012 they are not currently listed as endangered in Missouri or Illinois, but in 2011 they were. Due to their scarcity we do not receive a lot of calls concerning this species. However, here are a few issues you might encounter if you have a badger in your area…
Badgers Hit By Cars
Sadly, as with all animals, car accidents are a major factor in causes of death with native badgers. The prime time for badgers to be crossing the roads is during mating season which is much later than other species, occurring in late summer into fall (September-November). During late summer and fall you may see more of the badgers in your area out of their dens, crossing roads, and generally more visible as compared to the norm. These are usually the larger males, looking for females, and they are willing to travel as far as it takes to make sure they get the opportunity to mate. If you believe that you have accidentally hit a badger with your car, be VERY cautious when approaching the animal to see if it is still alive. Badgers have carnivore teeth designed for tearing and biting into flesh, and their nails on their front paws can be extremely harmful as well. When threatened badgers will hiss, growl, bare their teeth, and if pushed too far they will attack by biting and clawing. Badgers are EXTREMELY POWERFUL animals! It’s best to keep your distance and maybe use a stick to see if the animal is still alive. If he is, please give us a call at the hotline immediately @ 1-855-WILD-HELP for further instruction.
Badgers get pregnant via ‘delayed implantation’ which basically means that Mom can mate in September, but not technically get pregnant from that mating instance until as late as February. Mom knows what time is best to go ahead and let the pregnancy happen, and her body makes that decision then. Young are born sometime between March and May, usually 4-5 to a litter. As with many mammals, babies are born blind and helpless. However they don’t stay that way for long! Babies are fully weaned and kicked out of the den by 8-10 weeks of age if they are male. The females stay a bit longer but still move out by August. If you believe that you have found a baby badger, be very cautious and try to keep your distance, watching from a window or nearby hiding spot. If Mom is nowhere to be seen for over an hour, or if baby is covered in bugs, injured, cold, lethargic, or crying, it’s time to get the baby to a rehabber. Wrap the baby in a towel or sheet, place inside a pet taxi or dog crate, and call the wildlife hotline as soon as possible @ 1-855-WILD-HELP. Do NOT feed or give anything to drink until talking to a rehabber and being instructed to do so. Badgers have very specific diets as babies and only a rehabber can guide you on how to feed or whether or not you should feed at all. Only certain rehab facilities can accommodate a baby badger, so please call the hotline to find the properly equipped rehab center near you.
Badgers Digging into Chicken Coops, Sheds, & Barns
American badgers are prolific diggers. In 24 hours or less a badger can go from completely unnoticed to unavoidable by their digging directly into a chicken coop, barn, or other structure on private property. Chicken coops are the most common considering badgers have no trouble catching and eating a chicken. Keeping them out is a difficult task, but it is very similar to the process we use to exclude other diggers like groundhogs and skunks. The simplest method is to purchase metal tent stakes, rebar, or metal garden stakes at least 6 inches long, preferably longer. Then drive the stakes into the ground, spaced roughly 2 inches apart, with a hammer until the stake top is flush with the ground. When an animal attempts to dig under the coop’s fence line, they will be greeted by these bars, and should move on. Badgers are such quick diggers though that they can dismantle these bars in a fairly short period of time if they really want to. If you are having a lot of trouble with a badger in your area, please give us a call to discuss different humane options that might deter this animal from your area. Each situation is unique when it comes to this species, and because of their limited population we strive to ensure that this animal in particular is in no way harmed or threatened by our exclusion and deterrent methods. Our wildlife specialists are always more than willing to help with situations like these. Call us anytime @ 1-855-WILD-HELP or email us at [email protected]