American badger (Taxidea taxus jeffersonii)
The American badger is the only type of badger in North America. This sturdy member of the weasel family helps control rodents and insects. It also helps plants grow by aerating the soil with its long, sharp claws. Several subspecies of badger exist in Canada, but the jeffersonii subspecies occurs only in British Columbia.
The American badger uses its sharp claws to dig rabbits, rats, mice, gophers and other burrowing animals out of the ground to eat. They’re so adept at rooting out prey that coyotes will often hang around to catch any animals that slip by the badger. To protect their eyes from all that dirt flying around, badgers have a second, transparent eyelid. The American badger is also well protected from predators thanks to its muscular physique, thick fur and an ability to release a foul-smelling musk to drive enemies away. The American badger is largely nocturnal and lives an average of four to five years in the wild.
These expert diggers live in open, grassy areas such as prairies, plains, farmland and forest edges. American badgers depend on their dens for sleeping, hunting, storing food and giving birth. Badgers usually have several dens throughout their home range, picking different ones to use on different days. These elaborate burrows can be up to three metres deep and contain up to 10 metres of tunnels.
You can find the jeffersonii subspecies throughout western North America, from California north to southern B.C. and east to Colorado. In Canada, only a few hundred remain, in the grasslands and dry forests of B.C.’s interior.
Although badgers have few natural enemies, habitat loss caused by urban development and the conversion of open grassland to farmland is a significant problem. Also, given their large territory, badgers will often cross roads while looking for prey, putting them at risk of being hit by cars and trucks.
Recommended Recovery Actions
The federal Recovery Strategy for the American badger calls for a number of conservation measures, including conducting radio-telemetry studies to determine how badgers use their habitat, investigating their diet and developing options to reduce road mortality. The strategy recommends translocating badgers in situations where they are at risk (too close to a busy highway, for example). In the past, translocations have been shown to successfully re-establish the species in areas where it has disappeared.
What we are doing
The American badger jeffersonii subspecies is on Wildlife Preservation Canada’s priority list for potential future action. Find out what we have done to help other Canadian mammals, such as swift fox and Ord’s kangaroo rat, and how you can make a difference.