Let us soothe the Mondays with a Mustelid.
The American Badger (Taxidea taxus) can be found in central and western North America, from the southern part of Canada to the northern part of Mexico. In Mexico, the American Badger is called tejon (which also refers to coatis) and tlalcoyote. They are a robust and adaptable species, living in a variety of habitats. They have distinctive black and white markings on their faces, similar to their relatives in Europe.
American Badgers are stocky creatures with a powerful build. Adults can grow up to 30 inches in body length (75 cm) and weigh around 20 pounds (9 kg). Males are slightly heavier than females, and northern badgers tend to be bigger than southern badgers. American Badgers have powerful forelegs tipped by 2-inch (5 cm) claws, which they use to dig their setts, which are dens connected by a complex network of tunnels. Because of their habit of digging these setts, they generally prefer ground that remains fairly dry. It has a third eyelid, or nictating membrane, that helps to protect its eyes while digging.
The diet of American Badgers consists of a variety of small prey, primarily ground-dwelling rodents like squirrels, prairie dogs, gophers, marmots, pika and voles. They also hunt ground-nesting birds like the burrowing owl, sand martin and bank swallow. Other types of prey include reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects and carrion. Occasionally they will eat plants like sunflower seeds, corn, mushrooms and green beans.
Mating season for American Badgers occurs in late summer and early autumn, but the females will delay implantation of the fertilized eggs until the end of winter, usually the middle of February. The total time of pregnancy is anywhere from six to seven months, but the actual gestation period is closer to six weeks. The females will give birth to a litter of one to five kits in a birthing den insulated with grass and other vegetation. The kits will open their eyes at around four weeks, and will be fully weaned at eight. They will stay with their mother until the next autumn season, when they will disperse to establish their own setts.
Though American Badgers are relatively small compared to other predators, they are very aggressive and have few natural predators of their own. They are occasionally taken by cougars, bears, wolves, golden eagles, bobcats and coyotes. As their habitats become unusable due to human development, their range is expanding eastward. There are currently four recognized subspecies:
- Taxidea taxus taxus (central Canada and U.S.)
- Taxidea taxus jacksoni (southern Great Lakes region)
- Taxidea taxus jeffersoni (western U.S. and British Columbia)
- Taxidea taxus berlandieri (southwest U.S. and northern Mexico)
Source for all images used in this post.