American badgers (Taxidea taxus) are constantly digging. Badgers sense/smell prey (most often ground squirrels, mice, chipmunks and pocket gophers) in their underground nests and rapidly dig them out. Badgers also dig to escape pursuing predators (including man and dogs), bury uneaten prey until consumed, make sleeping or nesting chambers and bury droppings.
With their stoutly muscled forepaws, short sturdy legs and long, heavy foreclaws, badgers are well equipped for rapid digging.
Badgers live in underground dens, which they, of course, dig. A badger burrow has an elliptical entrance 8″ to 12″ in diameter. The burrow itself is 2′ to 5′ underground and can be 8′ to 30′ long. The burrow ends in a grass-lined nest or sleeping chamber and also has a “toilet” area. For safety, a badger, solitary except during the breeding season, may have two to four dens in close proximity and connected by tunnels. Large quantities of earth are moved digging the burrow and thrown out the entrance. Badger burrows have large mounds of earth at the entrance. Badgers often move and replace their burrows. Coyotes, rabbits and other small mammals use abandoned badger burrows.
Badgers do not hibernate. When it is very cold badgers will spend time in a torpor (state of decreased physiological activity). Once the temperature is above freezing they emerge.
Badger holes are a danger for horses. A running horse or a horse under saddle can step into a badger hole resulting in a broken leg and serious falls for riders.
This badger hole is in a corner of one of our pastures near Lookout CA (Modoc County). The badger is active even though temperatures are below freezing, except for a brief period in the afternoon. Although we have horses, it is unlikely they will encounter this hole. So Leonard allows the badger to share our property. Badgers need homes too.
More information about American badgers can be found in my earlier post: “American Badger” 07-27-2016.