Cagey Badger by alicejenny

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									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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