In Missouri, badgers have become one of the symbols of prairie habitat.
Scientific name: Taxidea taxus
Claim to fame: In Missouri, badgers have become one of the symbols of prairie habitat. Although not often seen because of their secretive nature and relatively scattered population, badgers can be found across much of the state – including here in the Ozarks. Badgers are known for their digging ability and ferocity when cornered. Though few are trapped here, badgers are included in Missouri’s furbearer trapping season and are considered a game animal in this state (see the Wildlife Code of Missouri for details). Badger fur is used to trim cloth coats and the animal’s white-tipped hairs are often glued amongst the plain black hairs of other long-haired pelts to imitate a silver fox. The badger is the state animal of Wisconsin.
Species status: Badgers were probably never abundant in Missouri, but there’s little doubt a reduction of prairie habitat has further thinned this animal’s sparse numbers in the state.
First discovered: The first scientific description of badgers was written by the German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in 1777. Schreber’s multi-volume work “Die Saugethiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit Beschreibungen” focused on mammals of the world.
Family matters: Badgers belong to the mammal family Mustelidae, which means they are close relatives of skunks and otters.
Length: 23 to 35 inches
Diet: Badgers are carnivores; the most common food items being small mammals.
Weight: 13 pounds to 30 pounds
Distinguishing characteristics: The badger is a heavy-bodied, medium-sized mammal with a broad head, a short, thick neck, short legs and a short, bushy tail. The general coloration is gray with a slight yellowish cast. The brownish face is marked with a white stripe reaching from near the nose to the crown of the head and sometimes onto the neck and back. Paired white areas extend from around the mouth onto the cheeks and inside the ears and a prominent vertical black bar or “badge” occurs in front of each ear. Badgers have a series of dens on their home range which they use at different times, but they seldom return to the same den on consecutive days. Badgers are active mostly at night, but sometimes they forage in early morning or late evening and sun themselves near the entrance of their burrows. Badgers have a highly proficient method of digging. They loosen the soil with their front feet (and possibly mouths), pass the dirt under the belly and kick it out with their hind feet.
Life span: 13 to 15 years in captivity; very likely much shorter in the wild
Habitat: Throughout most of their North American range, badgers prefer open country.
Life cycle: Mating takes place in August or September and is followed by a delay in development of offspring. The embryos experience slight development before they become dormant in the uterus for several months. In mid-February (sometimes a little later), the embryos become implanted in the uterus and complete their development in about five weeks. A single annual litter is born in March or April and usually consists of two or three young. The young’s eyes open at four to six weeks of age. Weaning occurs when young are about half grown, but they stay with their mother around the home burrow until fall.