You're lucky if you've seen one— Cagey Badger Elusive Burrower of the Plains ELIZABETH BACHMANN It made one think of one. During cold weath- the fronds of a fan be- er he keeps to his bur- ing waved gently up and r o w , probably b e i n g down by an Egyptian wholly dormant. slave—(and this in the His body is thickset Jackson Hole country in and flat. His black legs Wyoming!)—the way his are short, with enormous long hair, parted in the claws on his fore feet— middle along the spine, and these claws are not was rising and falling. the retractable kind. The He stood at bay, a bale- ! center of his broad, flat ful light in his small eyes, growling face is black, a white stripe extending fiercely through writhing hps and through it from the nape of the neck gnashing his teeth at the same time. to the snout. The sides of his face and throat are also white, with a long The innocent object of all this black patch in front of each ear. wrath was a man with a camera. His Strangely, this conspicuous coloring back turned and his whole attention seems to serve as camouflage so that focused on a cow moose, he was his face is no more in evidence than completely unaware of the badger un- his mottled, fog-colored fur when he til he heard the noise of its anger. wants to escape notice. If the badger had behaved as most The hide of the badger is extreme- badgers do, he would probably have ly thick and remarkably large and remained unnoticed. His hearing and loose, enabling the animal when seized sense of smell are very keen, and as by almost any part, to turn and bite a rule when he thinks he is in dan- his attacker. He also has the ability ger, he prefers to lie quietly in the to raise and lower his long fur when grass, and flatten himself out like a angry, as has already been described. doormat, rather than behave in such (This long hair is commonly used a belligerent manner. Moreover, be- for shaving brushes.) ing nocturnal, he is not often abroad E L I Z A B E T H B A C H M A N N is s e c r e t a r y to t h e during daylight, and comparatively Director o f the M i n n e s o t a D i v i s i o n o f F o r e s t r y . few people are so fortunate as to see This is the fifth in a series o f articles o n Minnesota animals. 10 CAGEY BADGER 11 He has a relentless bulldog grip in him, and you will frequently find his his jaws, which lock themselves me- excavations in the middle of a coun- chanically as they close and make his try road. bite particularly vicious. It would be At the Badoura tree nursery of the just about impossible for him to dis- Division of Forestry a family of badg- iocate his lower jaw because of its ers became a decided nuisance be- close interlocking with the skull prop- cause they persisted in making huge er. Needless to say, he is practically excavations all over the grounds, so immune from foes. that it became dangerous to walk The average weight of a female about after dark, and even the nur- badger is about 17 pounds, and that sery beds were not spared. Repeated of a male about 24 pounds. One of efforts to trap them were of no avail the largest ever to be captured, taken because there were just too many right within the city of Minneapolis burrows. in 1940, according to Dr. Thaddeus The need for constant vigilance Surber, weighed exactly 27 pounds. against traps evidently became a lit- Being a carnivorous animal, he tle discouraging to the badgers for feeds principally on gophers, field the family finally retreated to one mice, ground squirrels and prairie particular den. With brilliant general- dogs. He can open their burrows fast- ship they chose a burrow alongside er with his strong claws than they of the root cellar with the concrete can dig away through the earth in foundation for the back wall of their their efforts to escape him. As a mat- underground fortress. The hole was ter of fact, he can dig faster than a of such size that a man (had he cared man is able to dig with a shovel. The to) could have crawled into it quite badger also has a fondness for small comfortably. snakes, snails, grasshoppers and bee- If anyone came near or dared to tles, as well as birds' eggs, and bees- peer into the burrow, the mother nests with their honey and larvae. badger as well as her four offspring His talent for digging is one of the would set up such a growling and obnoxious characteristics of the badg- snapping of teeth as would have done er. He digs large burrows—with a credit to much larger and more fero- powerful sidestroke—and he digs cious animals. many. Apparently he digs just for the Time after time a trap was set fun of it, but it is probably second na- within the entrance of this burrow, ture for him to dig because he has only to be neatly sprung by the wily always had to obtain his food that creatures. Even when four traps were way. The locale matters nothing to set simultaneously, with the hope that 12 THE CONSERVATION VOLUNTEER if the old badger got one on each can badger, was quite widely dis- foot she would be unable to shake tributed over Europe, with the ex- them loose, neither she nor any of ception of northern Scandinavia, and the young were ever caught. They into Siberia. In England it used to be were finally shot. called the brock, from which such That all badgers are bad is not places as Brockenhurst and Brockley the impression I want to convey, how- derived their names. In Germany it ever. When left alone and unmolest- is known as dachs. It was the dachs- ed, they are timid and shy, despite hund that was trained to hunt the their malevolent looks. Little ones badger, which did much damage to can be tamed and become gentle pets. vineyards. To look into the gentle I have heard Ranger Bill Mueller of brown eyes of a dachshund, one would the Park Rapids forestry station tell never think that he had the courage about a pet badger. The animal was to go after as fierce a fighter as the quite tame, he said, and liked to play. badger. But he had the fortitude as If treated gently, he reacted in the well as the bodily build to enable same manner. If the play became him to crawl into the badger's bur- rough, he would bite the mittened row. The terms "badgering" and hand, but never so hard that it pene- "badger-baiting" came about from the trated and hurt. former barbarous practice of urging The American badger (Taxidea dogs to fight them for sport—inside a taxus) inhabits the greater portion of barrel! western North America, east to Wis- Another member of the badger consin and Texas, preferring the flat family inhabits the islands of the prairie lands to the more wooded re- Malayan region. Still another is called gions. In Minnesota it is still caught the sand badger, which is an In- by trappers in all parts of the state dian species, ranging from the east- except in the far northeastern sec- ern Himalayas to Lower Burma. The tion. Near the Mexican border and in Persian badger is of a paler color. Mexico itself, it is replaced by a va- There is also a Chinese badger, as riety distinguished by a white stripe well as another species which inhab- running down the back. its Japan. Members of his family have The common badger (Meles taxus), therefore very nearly encompassed the the Old World cousin of the Ameri- northern hemisphere.
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