I always considered the American badger (Taxidea taxus) a nocturnal mammal. So Leonard and I were surprised when we began to see them around our pastures and yard during daylight hours. A little research confirmed that badgers are usually nocturnal, but can be active at any time.
Badgers have a heavy, flattened body, short legs, very long front claws, and a short, bushy tail. Their pelage (fur) is coarse and short with long guard hairs – a grizzled grey above and lighter on the underside. A median longitudinal white stripe begins at the nose and runs to the middle of the back. Additional black and white parallel lines mark the head. Badgers walk with a wobbling gait.
Found in open, dry country throughout most of the Continental United States, badgers eat ground squirrels, mice, rats, gophers and chipmunks, which they unearth by digging.
Badgers also dig burrows with elliptical entrance holes 8″ to 12″ in diameter. Near the entrance are large mounds of thrown-out dirt. A field or pasture with active badgers can quickly begin to resemble a mine field with all their digging for food and excavating their burrows. Horses can break a leg by stepping into a badger hole. On the positive side, abandoned badger holes do provide homes for burrowing owls and other small animals.
Russell Hoban wrote a series of classic childrens’ books about Francis the Badger and her family. My son and daughter loved the stories about this cute, lovable badger. In reality badgers are powerful animals that only the largest dogs or mountain lions can subdue. They are mean and ferocious fighters. (Spoken from experience.) When facing a human they will growl and hiss. I give them clear berth.
This picture was taken on our ranch near Lookout CA (Modoc County). There were four badgers together. Male badgers are solitary and the female alone raises the family. Since three of the badgers were slightly smaller than the fourth, Leonard and I assume we saw a mother and three offspring.