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Wild Thing: Badger Swagger

Musk-scented badgers burrow for food, shelter and defense.

By Emily Moskal

The American badger’s got swagger. With short legs and a broad body, it has a profile like a military tanker. It’s incapable of carrying out the agile pounce of a puma, but its confident waddle demands respect.

Power-packed with menacing inch-long claws, muscular arms and loose skin capable of twisting free from fearsome predators, badgers are a formidable foe. Their keen sense of smell is second only to a dog’s.

A badger can dig backwards to disappear within the soil with its fangs exposed like a snare trap when facing a predator. If directly confronted, the badger can frighten larger assailants by flashing those claws and emitting lion-like snarls and growls.

Those sharp claws are more than just weapons. The badger’s a bit of a bulldozer, breaking ground with the front claws and flinging soil with the rear in one seamless, efficient way of digging a shallow burrow to find food or settle in for a rest.

badger

During mating season in late summer, the badger will dig a long underground den, called a sett, with designated rooms including a bathroom. The female’s fertilized embryos don’t mature right away; one to five pups are born in March or April. The pups stay with mom until the late fall, when they set out on their own for another 10 to 12 years.

Badgers reach 3 feet in length at maturity and weigh up to 25 pounds. They sport shaggy fur and a distinctive white stripe down the middle of the face.

One interesting item on the badger’s menu is rattlesnake. Badgers are mostly unaffected by venom, with a skin too thick to pierce except for one vulnerable spot, the nose. At the other end, anal scent glands release the signature strong-odored musk of wolverines, weasels, ferrets and minks.

Despite their fierceness, badgers make good neighbors on cattle ranches, where their habit of burying excess prey may help prevent the spread of disease from dead animals, particularly in the desert.

Common Name
American badger

Scientific Name
Taxidea taxus

Habitat
Sandy soils, open country prairies and plains. Most common in West and South Texas, occasionally East Texas

Diet
Mammals, birds, invertebrates and carrion

Did you know?
The dachshund (German for “badger hound”) was bred to hunt European badgers.

 

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