It’s Monday. That means it’s time to learn about a mustelid!
The Japanese Badger (Meles anakuma) can be found only on the Japanese islands of Shodoshima, Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku. It’s likely that the ancestors of these badgers reached the islands from Korea (especially given their absence from Hokkaido), and although they share a genus with the Asian and European Badgers, genetic studies indicate that Japanese Badgers are significantly different from their mainland cousins.
Japanese Badgers have lovely coloring, with their main coats in different shades of brown going from light brown on their backs to dark brown on their stomach and legs. Their head and ears are also pale, except for some dark brown face markings that run fro their snout toward the back of the head. Adults can weigh up to 24 pounds (11 kg), although the average size is closer to 11 pounds (5 kg), and measure approximately 31 inches (79 cm) in body length.
The diet of Japanese Badgers consists largely of earthworms, fruit, and insects. They forage for a wide variety of foods, but they don’t actively hunt as much as other badger species do. They will eat carrion when they can find it, but otherwise depend on their sensitive noses to lead them to some forage opportunities. Japanese Badgers are themselves preyed upon by foxes, dogs and humans.
Japanese Badgers are polygynandrous, which means that both males and females mate with multiple mates at any time during the year, although most of the young are born in the spring. After an active gestation period of about 50 days, the females will give birth to a litter of one to six young, which are weaned at about six weeks. The offspring stay with their mother for a long time, though, with female kits leaving after about 14 months, and male kits leaving at about 26 months. Females reach sexual maturity when they are two years old, but males are sexually mature just over a year old.
Japanese Badgers are currently considered to be a species of least concern by the IUCN, but their population has seen a decline over the last 30 years as their habitat has been developed.