Wisconsin Badger Genetics Project

The Wisconsin Badger Project officially began in 2009 through the Applied Evolutionary Ecology Lab at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with the help of multiple collaborators in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Following in the footsteps of British Columbia and Ontario, the Wisconsin badger project intends to be the first long-term study of badgers in Wisconsin. A long-term study on badgers can provide information to help us answer questions like:

  • Where do badgers live?
  • How many badgers are there in Wisconsin?
  • How do badgers move through the landscape?

Progress 2012: We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this project. To date, we have collected 172 individuals for DNA testing, and over 600 reports from throughout Wisconsin. Please see below for our progress, and please continue to send reports, especially for active burrows and roadkills.

Importance of Burrows

Badgers themselves are very difficult to find, but often leave lots of burrows in their wake. Badgers use burrows for many purposes including sleeping, hunting, and raising young. Burrows are an integral part of our research for two reasons.

First, burrows are evidence of what types of habitat badgers prefer to live in. We can record lots of habitat data like soil type, species of plants, and proximity to human establishments. This data can later help us determine what types of habitat badgers prefer, and ultimately help us predict where badgers are found. Predicting where badgers are found requires the location of the burrow as the locations at plotted onto a map using geographic information systems (GIS) technology. This technology allows us to visualize how badgers are distributed in the entire state. Maps that show where badgers have been sampled within Wisconsin from 2010 through July 2012 can be found by clicking on the following links.

Badger Locations with GPS coordinates

Badger Sightings by County

Burrows also provide a unique opportunity to use non-invasive trapping methods to collect hair samples for DNA testing. With a report of an active burrow, members of the project attach a hair snare to the top of burrow. When a badger passes under the snare, the snare brushes along the badger’s head and back, removing a small amount of hair from the individual. Following laboratory methods of extracting and amplifying DNA from the hair sample, we obtain that animal’s unique genetic signature (often called a “DNA fingerprint”).

Collecting as many different animals (and their genetic signature) as possible is the primary goal of this study. The more animals we receive, the more questions we can answer. With a large number of samples, we can begin to estimate population numbers, movement patterns, and even territory sizes.

Below are some considerations if you think you have seen a badger burrow:

  • Check the Badger ID and Burrows sections of this website, compare known burrows to the one you think is a badger.
  • Contact us immediately! Badgers are highly mobile, and the quicker we set up snares, the better. Badgers will often move to a new burrow within two days.
  • Be careful, badgers are known to be very protective of their home. Try not to damage the site as badgers may leave if they feel their burrow has been disturbed.

Road Kill and other Deceased Specimens

Road kills and other expired specimens are equally important as burrows for sources of DNA. Many badgers are killed while trying to cross roads each year. Although dead animals do not give specific evidence of habitat use, we can still gain lots of information using that animal’s DNA.

***Please do not attempt to trap or kill live badgers as they are a protected species within Wisconsin. Harvesting a live badger without the proper permits results in a substantial fine, and we will not utilize any animals that were taken due to illegal activities***

Road kills and mounted badgers can tell us the sex of the badger and potentially the area where it was born. This information can be used to estimate population sizes and movement. With more samples, we can also investigate if one particular sex or age group is more vulnerable to road kills.
If you find a road-killed animal that you think is a badger:

  • Look at the tail. Raccoons are one of the most common animals that are killed on roads. If the animal has a rings of color of its tail, it is a raccoon not a badger. Also refer to the Badger ID section of this website.
  • Contact us as soon as possible. Ultraviolet rays from the sun and moisture from the air quickly destroy DNA. If you wish to keep the animal, please obtain the proper permits and contact us if you wish to allow the animal to be sampled. We will only take a small amount, and will not compromise the quality of the pelt.
  • We will be happy to drive out to your location if you do not feel comfortable sampling the animal. If you prefer to sample the animal yourself, check the How to help! section for directions on how to properly sample the animal without causing harm to yourself or the DNA.


Our work could not be done without the generous support and input from:

  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
  • University of Wisconsin-Steven’s Point
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • British Columbia Badger Project