The American Badger is a short, sturdy member of the weasel (or mustelid) family. It is the only type of badger that lives in North America. Badgers have the long body, short legs, and scent glands characteristic of the weasel family.
The American Badger is gray, with dark legs and bold black and white stripes on its head and face.
Badgers are built for digging. Their dens can be up to 3 metres underground and contain up to 10 metres of tunnels, with an enlarged chamber for sleeping. Badgers have long strong claws and a streamlined skull enabling them to create these dens and dig prey out of burrows. Badgers also have a second (transparent) eyelid which can be closed to protect the badger’s eye from dirt. This eyelid is called the “nictitating membrane.” Diving birds such as the kingfisher also have this second eyelid.
Different subspecies of badgers have slight differences in appearance. The subspecies in Ontario is jacksoni, which tends to be darker, tawnier and slightly smaller than other subspecies.
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The American Badger ranges from California and Texas to the Great Lakes region. In Canada, the badger is found in southern British Columbia, all the prairie provinces and Ontario.
In Ontario, the badger is found primarily in the southwestern part of the province, close to Lake Erie in Haldimand-Norfolk County. There are also badgers in northwestern Ontario in the Thunder Bay and Rainy River Districts. Badgers can travel sizeable distances and occupy large home ranges of many square kilometres. There are thought to be fewer than 200 in Ontario.
In Ontario, badgers are found in a variety of habitats, such as tall grass prairie, sand barrens and farmland. These habitats provide badgers with small prey, including groundhogs, rabbits and small rodents. Since badgers are primarily nocturnal and quite wary of people, not many people are fortunate enough to spot one in the wild
American Badgers have few natural enemies in Ontario. The main threat to badgers is habitat loss. Badger numbers likely declined as open grassland was converted to farmland and today urban development is a threat to this and many other species. Badgers are also at risk of being hit by cars, as they often cross roads in search of prey.
The American Badger is an endangered species, and receives protection under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.
Nearly all the sites in Ontario where the badger lives are on private land. Voluntary stewardship efforts play an important role in badger conservation.
What You Can Do to Help the American Badger
- If you spot an American Badger, you can report your sighting to the Natural Heritage Information Centre, which tracks and maintains a database of many of Ontario’s wild species. http://nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca/MNR/nhic/species/species_report.cfm
- Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
- Badgers depend on healthy grassland habitat such as tallgrass prairie. In fact, many of Ontario’s Species at Risk rely on this type of habitat. Unfortunately, tallgrass prairie is increasingly rare throughout the province. Visit Tallgrass Ontario’s website to learn more about these habitats, the species that depend on them, and what you can do to help. http://www.tallgrassontario.org.
- Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. If you find a badger den on your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
- There is also a new program geared to eligible farms registered under the Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan to encourage greater protection and conservation of habitat for species at risk.
Did you know?
When threatened, badgers release a foul smelling musk to drive off enemies. In the face of danger, badgers also become very vocal; hissing and snarling.
Did you know?
Badgers are solitary (live alone) for most of the year. Adult males and females only get together to mate in late summer.