American Badger (Taxidea Taxus) is a mammal native to California and some other parts of the U.S. Classification of American Badger includes:
American Badgers differ from European and Eurasian Badgers in that American Badger is carnivorous. European and Eurasian Badgers are omnivorous.
Badger in California has been a Special Status animal, a California Species of Concern, since 1987, over 25 years. Badger’s ability to sustain and biodiversity are significantly threatened in Sonoma County and in California. Interested conservationists and biologists postulate, similar to the Burrowing Owl status in California, the American Badger merits a status of Threatened. Much misinformation and misunderstanding about American Badger exist in both the biological and regulatory communities. Our nonprofit’s mission includes focused observation and documentation – without encroachment – of American Badger habitat, species behaviors, and cumulative knowledge and awareness. This effort places us in a unique position to ascertain burrowing patterns, likely gender of identified badgers in habitat, and many other features. We continue to be enlightened every step of the way. Our approximately 15 years of observation and documentation, consulting with expert biologist Kim Fitts, supports our ability to inform and educate about this elusive mammal.
The identified 100-year sustaining American Badger population in the Paula Lane area of West Petaluma, CA, has become regionally known and appreciated. P.L.A.N. provides outreach about badgers each year at the Martinez Beaver Festival. An exhibit at the annual Bay Area Open Space Council also helps inform the regional conservation community. The BadgerMap project, a monitored project on iNaturalist, accepts input from sightings, which we verify and post in a general fashion, to map both habitat areas and movement areas for American Badger in Sonoma County in the Bay Area.
The Badger’s family, Mustiledae, also includes ferret, otter, skunk, weasel and wolverine. A Badger’s long claws are its trademark for foraging out gopher, vole and mouse holes. Badger vision is not the best of its senses. Its olfactory sense, or sense of smell, and sense of hearing help it capture the scent of a gopher or vole under a mound or in a hole, and the proficient claw-paws then dig for the prey. A hiker may come upon a series of large dug-out holes. These are often mistaken for burrows when the digging represents a digging pattern – from one mound to another – or beginning at one hole and moving to another – to capture prey. A Badger will often select one foraged out hole to enlarge and become a burrow. Badgers may sleep in a burrow for a day or, if in a safe area with abundant prey, for weeks. Badgers are attached to their home ranges and, as on Paula Lane in Petaluma, will have year-round presence and return to their chosen homes over and over. On Paula Lane in Petaluma, this has been for over 100 years. On Paula Lane, there is longstanding evidence through observation and seasonal burrowing patterns of a female-in-residence, which we believe to be generations long. Such a presence, again, supports the significance of the habitat area.
Bioconsultant LLC conducted a thorough habitat survey of the Paula Lane area Badgers in 2003 and continues to periodically monitor the habitat and population, receiving regular reports from P.L.A.N.
Badgers are elusive, shy mammals who are not people tolerant. When threatened, a Badger will become defensive. Most of the myths surrounding ferocity of Badgers actually relate to men doing the badgering, forcing dogs to attack badgers, creating situations where a badger is either shot and killed by a human or placed in a position of life-threatening defense, where, any wild animal would then defend its life. Female badgers are particularly protective of their young. Young badgers are born blind for the first 6 weeks of their lives and are helpless. In Spring, especially during daylight hours, a Badger sighting may represent a female, hunting during the day, then staying with her young at night, whereas she would normally be foraging nocturnally.
Badgers mate during late Autumn, in October and November. A pregnant female is very selective about the location of her burrowing complex – such complexes are rarely seen by humans, as the location must be in a safe area – away from other predators and human encroachment. Badgers give bith in Winter, January or February, and young Badgers remain in the burrow complex, protected by their mother, until early Spring. Then, distant sightings and observation reveal playful young who emerge from the burrow complex, rest by its opening in the sun, and play and begin learning how to dig with their claw-paws. In Summer, June-August, young Badgers disperse to seek their own territory. These can be dangerous times, as Badgers may need to cross roads and, in Sonoma County, Summer months are the usual reported times of seeing particularly a young Badger, struck by a vehicle and on a roadside.
American Badger (Taxidea Taxus)
Again, contrary to myths of ferocity, American Badger is a good friend for your garden. The carnivorous American Badger may dig a burrow in proximity to a garden. Badgers seek your gophers. They naturally help manage gopher, vole and mouse populations. Badgers are not interested in your pets. P.L.A.N. has observed harmonious co-existence between Badgers and cats. Dogs, however, should not be encouraged to approach Badgers or be around a burrow that could contain young, as a Badger will naturally become defensive, to protect her or his territory.
A recently spread myth about American Badger is that Badgers and Coyotes hunt together. This is not true. While American Badger and Coyote co-exist without animosity, American Badger is a solitary forager. A wiley Coyote may be observed in the vicinity of a foraging Badger. The Coyote is positioned only to be able to capture prey that may escape a Badger’s foraging skills and less-than-Coyote speed. Thus, the Badger and Coyote are not actually hunting together at all. This story, however, reflects the misperception of humans when observing a visual situation where American Badger and Coyote may be in proximity to each other, and drawing incorrect conclusions from the observation, based on lack of experience in one or the other species.
Are Badgers Disappearing?
The answer to this question is “yes.” By documenting and observing American Badger habitat, foraging and movement patterns over 15 years, P.L.A.N. is dedicated, more than ever, to both conservation and education. Conservation because so little intact habitat with areas for movement remain for American Badger in Sonoma County and in California, and biodiversity of the species is definitely threatened. Badgers rely on land – especially grassland and hilly upland area – for habitat as well as for their prey base. Often, a healthy ecosystem is reflected in the presence of American Badger, multiple raptor species and owls, signifying co-existence for the same prey base. In addition, Badgers are efficient home builders and abandoned burrows are often re-used by the federally endangered California Tiger Salamander, the state and federally threatened California Red-Legged Frog (also in West Petaluma in the vicinity of Paula Lane), and the Burrowing Owl (a California Species of Concern). An ecosystem in which American Badger is able to sustain is sensitive and quiet, open space with areas to move, increasingly diminishing in Sonoma County and California. This equates to the potential permanent loss of this species. When longstanding habitat is identified and can be conserved, such as the open space property and full habitat area on Paula Lane, every effort must be given to continued protection and sensitive, harmonious co-existence with other wildlife species and humans in the habitat areas.
What if I See a Badger?
If out in the wild and you see an American Badger outside its burrow from a distance of 300’ or more, carefully raising your binoculars to observe and remaining still and quiet are appropriate behaviors.
If, however, you are enjoying the out-of-doors, walking along, and encounter an American Badger, seen 100’ or less from you, we recommend the following actions:
Be quiet and still.
Change your vision to peripheral vision, or soft eyes, removing visual energy from the direction of the Badger.
Slowly back away until you are almost removed from the area (retreat is a behavior Badger recognizes and utilizes).
Turn and leave the area. If you can position yourself behind vegetation and from a distance, quiet observation is not harmful.
We often hear, “I’ve never seen a Badger.” This is good – for the Badgers. Badgers are considered elusive primarily because of their skill in disappearing into burrows if ever seen. The visual scene of a Badger is stunning. The physical appearance of a Badger is quite remarkable and has been described many ways – prehistoric looking is often heard as a description. When a human is graced with a Badger sighting, the experience is usually memorable. We recommend this is a much more meaningful way to have Badgers in your life – a living memory of a surprising visual – which graced you. Such an approach also helps protect the species from encroachment and further threat to Badgers in their own habitats. After all, Badgers are ground-based. Their habitat is ground. They are also unable to escape from perceived harm as quickly as, for example, birds who can fly away, or deer who can leap and flee away quickly. It’s good to keep this in mind.
How Can I Help Protect Badgers?
P.L.A.N.’s research continues to build information about the elusive American Badger. We provide complimentary consulting for property owners and residents who believe they may have a Badger living among them. From 2011 to 2014, we have made over 40 consulting visits in West Petaluma and Sonoma County, often discovering and confirming the presence of Badger as it tries to establish a home habitat or moves through an area, foraging. We are encouraged by the majority of property owners who are interested in harmonious co-existence with Badgers and who respect this native mammal who contributes so positively to our upland and grassland ecosystems.
For a complimentary consultation or if you have questions about American Badger, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 707-241-5548. If a perceived time sensitive situation, please call our 24/7 line and leave a message, 707-241-5548.
An interest in helping to protect the American Badger also indirectly helps protect many other wildlife species – including Great-Horned Owl, Barn Owl, Hawks and Kites – who all seek similar prey to the American Badger. Our respect for all these species increased even more when, after 13 years of observation of habitat and foraging patterns on Paula Lane in West Petaluma, we were able to conclude that the species seeking the same prey appear to have a collaborative relationship in terms of not depleting the prey base and capturing what is needed, while leaving prey for the other species who have the same foraging and hunting interest. We believe this is a subtle, yet powerful identifier of how natural ecosystems remain in balance as long as there is no human disturbance.
The 2014 report on American Badger in Sonoma and Marin Counties and the San Francisco Bay Area is available. Click here to access the 2014 report.
The American Badger in Sonoma County - State of the Badger 2013 report can be found here.