Appearance This squat, muscular mammal has powerful front legs with long claws for digging dens and unearthing burrowing animals, such as voles. The badger has white and black face markings. Its coarse tan fur is flecked with gray-tipped hairs from neck to tail. The adult male weighs about 16 pounds and is about 3 feet long, including a 6-inch tail; the female is slightly smaller. The badger is a mustelid, the same family as weasels.
Range and habitat American badgers live in open country from southern Canada throughout most of Mexico. In the United States, this species ranges from the Midwest to the Pacific Coast and is found in every county of Minnesota. Most common in the state's southern and western prairie-grasslands, badgers also use grassy clearings in the state's forested regions.Badgers are solitary critters and not highly territorial. Their populations are scattered thinly across their range. Individual home-range sizes are highly variable, influenced by density of available prey.
Diet Badgers feed primarily on small burrowing rodents, which they pursue by digging. Like most carnivores, they will deviate from their normal diet of rodents to make a meal of small birds, reptiles, amphibians, or invertebrates. Habits The badger is an amazing digger. It uses its short front legs with curved claws to rake soil back to its hind legs and transfer it behind as it moves ahead. It favors sandy soils where digging in pursuit of prey is easier. When encountered it might appear to be quite ferocious, but it usually retreats to a nearby burrow and sometimes plugs the opening.
Reproduction Sparse population distribution tends to complicate mating for the badger. Distances separating individuals are great, while their daily movements are confined to fairly concentrated local prey populations, thus limiting mating opportunities. They compensate through an evolved mechanism called delayed implantation. The female can become pregnant throughout summer and early fall, but implantation and fetal development are delayed until late winter. She typically bears three or four young in early spring, about six weeks after the embryos attach to the uterus.
Status Badgers have never been known to be present in large numbers in post-European settlement Minnesota. Conversion of native prairie to agricultural land had a negative effect on badger distribution. Recent government programs to retire erosion-prone farm fields have allowed a short-term reversal in habitat degradation. Annual fur harvest records of almost 1,000 badgers indicate populations are stable in the reduced range.
DNR furbearer and depredation program consultant
A Closer Look at Critical Habitat
The badger is thought to exist in 24 of the 25 ecological subsections highlighted in Tomorrow's Habitat for the Wild and Rare: An Action Plan for Minnesota Wildlife, including aspen parkland in the northwestern corner. This subsection harbors six other mammal species in greatest conservation need: American elk, gray wolf, least weasel, Franklin's ground squirrel, eastern spotted skunk, and northern pocket gopher. To read more about the region and its conservation priorities, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/cwcs/subsection_profiles.html.