Wildlife

Badger Life From Breakfast to Late Night

Gregg Treinish and his team at Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation bring us stories from around the world about adventuring with purpose. Here, a volunteer with ASC’s Landmark adventure science program on American Prairie Reserve, writes about the fascinating lives of badgers.

By Jonah Gula

The grasslands at American Prairie Reserve are always bustling with life. Whether it’s mourning dove air traffic, pronghorn vanishing over the horizon, or routine bison, mule deer, pronghorn, grouse, hawks, snakes, and prairie dogs, there’s always something to see. However, every once in a while, we see something out of the ordinary.

My second day on the Reserve, we saw three badgers early in the morning. You never hear much about badgers, probably because they’re generally nocturnal and not the most popular animals, but something about their mysterious, fossorial life intrigues me.

We were driving out to walk my first transect and found the three of them in a prairie dog town we call “Manhattan.” I presume they were a mother and young based on size differences noted in the video below, which was taken that morning by Landmark crew member Shannon Rebinski. Watch it to get a taste of breakfast time with the badgers:

Suddenly I had dozens of questions about their lives: How large are their home ranges? What do they eat? How do they disperse?

It turns out that male badgers, as might be expected, have larger home ranges—an average of 7.6-square miles, whereas females, which aren’t as occupied with finding mates, range around 2.1-square miles, according to research from the University of Wyoming. Prairie dogs and ground squirrels are major prey items for these stout mustelids, and in areas of high prey concentration, badgers are territorial, so young establish home ranges separate from their mothers.

We investigated the perimeter of Manhattan and found a number of badger holes, several of which had seen recent use. We set a trail camera out at the active holes, and left it alone for a week. When we pulled the camera, we found it had taken video of one sight we were very unlikely to see for ourselves: a badger in nocturnal mode!

 

Originally from San Diego, California, Jonah Gula is entering his senior year at Unity College. He volunteered with the Landmark program this summer. Learn more on our website, the ASC Field Notes blog, and by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.

Read More by Gregg Treinish and His Correspondents

Gregg Treinish founded Adventure Scientists in 2011 with a strong passion for both scientific discovery and exploration. National Geographic named Gregg Adventurer of the Year in 2008 when he and a friend completed a 7,800-mile trek along the spine of the Andes Mountain Range. He was included on the Christian Science Monitor's 30 under 30 list in 2012, and the following year became a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work with Adventure Scientists. In 2013, he was named a Backpacker Magazine "hero", in 2015, a Draper Richards Kaplan Entrepreneur and one of Men's Journal's "50 Most Adventurous Men." In 2017, he was named an Ashoka Fellow. Gregg holds a biology degree from Montana State University and a sociology degree from CU-Boulder. He thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004. Read more updates from Gregg and others on the Adventure Scientists team at adventurescientists.org/field-notes. Follow Adventure Scientists on Instagram @adventurescientists, on Facebook @adventurescientists, and on Twitter @AdvScientists.

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