This section of the website details general facts about badgers based on studies in areas outside Wisconsin. Badger characteristics, behavior, and ecology are known to vary across their range, so comprehensive study in Wisconsin is needed. This page is divided into the following sections:
- General information
- Physical Characteristics
- Food Habits
General InformationAmerican Badgers are medium-sized carnivores that are members of the weasel family (Mustelidae). They are considered a prairie-associated species, which means they prefer to live in areas like meadows, fallow fields, and open forests. Badgers are found in many areas throughout the United States, but little is known about their basic biology because badgers are very hard to find.
Badgers are important predators as they are uniquely adapted to digging. Most of their diet consists of burrowing mammals, and thus, badgers provide an important control for rodents and other agricultural pests. Badgers are a protected species within Wisconsin due to the lack of information about their habits, so most of the information found below comes from studies in western populations or endangered Canadian populations.
Physical CharacteristicsBadgers are very distinctive with a stout, flattened body with unique facial markings. In eastern populations like Wisconsin, badgers have a large white stripe that runs the length of their snout back to their shoulders. Their cheeks also have two black patches. Badgers also have large claws on their front limbs that they use for digging.
Roughly the size of a large raccoon, badgers on average are 2 to 3 feet in length, with males being larger than females. Females weigh approximately 15 to 17 lbs whereas males can reach 25 lbs or more.
HabitatBadgers prefer treeless areas like prairies, meadows, and forest edges. Most often you can find badger burrows in sandier soils, probably because sand allows for easier burrowing. Although badgers prefer natural prairie, they will use agricultural areas as many areas of traditional habitat have been converted to farm land. Also, populations of badgers in Wisconsin appear to use densely forested habitats, which is largely considered unsuitable. It is not known if badgers prefer one habitat type or if they are equally adept at surviving in forests, agriculture, and natural prairie.
Food HabitsBadgers are opportunistic carnivores and will eat almost anything under the size of a woodchuck (groundhog). Badgers are especially adept at capturing burrowing mammals such as woodchucks, ground squirrels, and gophers. Other food items include voles, mice, ground-nesting birds, insects, and carrion.
To capture prey, badgers give chase and then will burrow after their prey effectively trapping the animal. They are even known to block entrances to burrows dug by communial rodents like ground squirrels prior to digging after the prey.
BehaviorMost people do not see badgers because badgers are solitary and most active at night. During the majority of daylight hours, badgers sleep in their burrows. As for their fearsome reputation, badgers tend to avoid humans unless provoked. When cornered, badgers will fiercely defend themselves and their young, but usually given enough room, they will retreat to their burrow without any incident.
Badgers are highly specialized for digging. When burrowing, they use their large claws to dig into the soil leaving telltale scratch marks along the sides of the burrow. Throughout their territory, badgers will have several burrows and will often switch burrows within two days. Despite their “waddle-like” walk, badgers are highly mobile and have been known to move multiple miles in a single day.They patrol large home ranges that vary in side depending on food resources. If food resources are plentiful, their ranges are smaller, but in poorer habitats, they will range more in search of food. Also, during the winter in northern climates like Wisconsin, badgers greatly reduce their activity, but do not hibernate.
Badger kits (young) are born in spring and remain with their mother until late summer. Then, the young will move sometimes long distances from their mother’s range to establish their own home range. This is a very dangerous time for kits as many are killed while attempting to cross roads and railroads.
ThreatsHumans undoubtably have the greatest impact on badger populations. Most areas list road kill as one of the top sources of mortality. Badgers tend to be able to cross roads better than animals like deer and raccoons, but still hundreds are killed on roads and railroads annually. Road kills do provide important information for researchers, and if you see a road-killed badger, contact us immediately.
The conversion of native prairie and other treeless habitats greatly affects badgers as well. Badgers require areas with lots of food like gophers and grounds squirrels to survive. With the conversion of native habitat to agriculture and urban areas, badgers will need to range farther in the landscape, exposing them to potential dangers like highways.
Report Burrows, Road kills, and Sightings!
Badgers are a protected species in Wisconsin, but still precious little is known about them. Help us understand one of the most fascinating animals in North America. The more animals we receive, the more questions we can answer.