Wildlife Portfolio of the Western National Parks
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THE COMMON BADGER is one of the largest members of the weasel family. An average adult of this species has a total length of about 28 inches, including the tail which is 5 inches long. Its weight is about 13 pounds, although individuals weighing up to 20 pounds have been encountered. This animal has short but powerful legs, squatty but broad body, and a short tail. The black and white facial marks, the long, shaggy, grizzled-gray hairs, the small ears, and short thick neck are all conspicuous characters. The claws, particularly of the front feet, are large (more than an inch long), slightly curved, and well developed for digging. The under parts are yellowish white with short and relatively scarce hair. Experience indicates that the eyesight of the badger is not too keen but that its sense of smell is unusually well developed.

This animal is especially adapted to "digging for a living" and is not lazy. While it spends a large portion of its existence underground digging out rodents, it travels overland from one burrow to the next. During its lifetime one of these animals will dig a surprising number of miles of burrows.

The badger works by day as well as by night. On June 8, 1930, at 4:30 p. m., near Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park, I spied a flat animal, about 2-1/2 feet long, sneaking about in the grass and brush near the road. Upon investigating, I found that it was a badger hunting for ground squirrels. Its gait, as it wiggled slowly along with its body close to the ground, was similar to that of a "sowbug." As I approached, it quickly sought refuge in a shallow burrow from which, apparently, it recently had dug out a ground squirrel.

Frightened by my nearer approach, the animal ran down an old burrow. After I had waited quietly for a few minutes, it turned around and cautiously poked its head out of its underground refuge (see illustration) to see who the stranger might be. Apparently these animals have considerable curiosity.

Badgers are known for their ability to withstand the attacks of dogs and other animals. A blow that would kill a coyote or fox usually makes little impression on a badger.

The badger is one of the many animals that has profited through the continued and thorough protection afforded it in our national parks, where it aids in maintaining the natural balance by keeping down excessive numbers of rodents, particularly ground squirrels and gophers.


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Last Updated: 01-Jul-2010