California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Bay Delta Region

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  7329 Silverado Trail
  Napa, CA 94558
  (707) 944-5500

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  Stockton, CA 95206
  (209) 234-3420

Regional Manager:
Scott Wilson

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Stanislaus River Report


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Stanislaus River Basin and Calaveras River Water Use Program
Threatened and Endangered Species Report - March 1995
Bay Delta and Special Water Projects Division, CA Dept of Fish and Game

American Badger

Taxidea taxus
California Department of Fish and Game "Special Animal".

Life History

The badger is a somewhat large mustelid that has been modified for a semi-fossorial life. It has powerful, short legs with partially webbed toes and claws measuring 1 to 1-1/2 inches which aid in digging; the hind feet have shovel-like claws (Boitani 1982). The body is stout and flat, wider than high. Coloration of its shaggy coat is a silver gray with the head being dark with a white stripe that often extends down the back. The snout of the badger is slightly upturned and the eyes are small with nictating membranes (Lindzey 1982), an adaptation for its fossorial lifestyle. The skin of the badger is loose, particularly across the chest, shoulder, and back. The tail is relatively short, moderately furred and somewhat yellowish. The legs are black. Weight can range from 12 to 24 pounds with the males weighing more on the average.

One to four young are born in an extensive burrow system (Jameson, Jr., Peeters 1988). Mating occurs in late summer or early autumn and is followed by delayed implantation. Implantation then occurs in December or January with the young born in March or April. At birth the young are furred but blind; they become independent by August.

The badger is an uncommon, permanent resident found throughout most of the state, with the exception of the northern North coast area. They are most abundant in the drier open stages of most shrub, forest, and herbaceous habitats with friable soils. Badgers are generally associated with treeless regions, prairies, park lands and cold desert areas (Lindzey 1982).

Badgers are basically nocturnal, foraging at night and then remaining underground during the daylight hours. Badgers dig burrows with eight to 12 inch, wider than tall, elliptical entrances, in friable soil types. They generally have a single entrance. They frequently reuse old burrows, although some have been known to dig a new den each night, especially in summer. Soil excavated during formation of the den is piled at the entrance. Often when a den is occupied in cold weather, the tunnel is partially plugged.

The badger is a highly specialized fossorial carnivore. They feed mainly on small mammals, especially ground squirrels, pocket gophers, rats, mice, and chipmunks. Badgers capture their prey by digging out the animal's burrows. The badger captures some of its prey above ground and also forages on birds, eggs, reptiles, invertebrates, and carrion. Diet will shift seasonally and yearly depending upon prey availability and the badger buries surplus food.

Findings and Conclusions

The North American badger is somewhat tolerant of human activities. Predator control with the usage of indiscriminate trapping and poisons have caused extensive losses. Additionally, habitat loss, vehicular accidents, farming operations, and indiscriminate shootings are also a cause of mortality. Being a fossorial animal, deaths caused by other factors may easily go undetected (Lindzey 1982). Larger predators, including coyotes (Canis latrans), occasionally kill badgers.

Badgers were not observed during any field activities, however, suitable habitat exists along the Stanislaus River within some of the grassy and open areas. Any project affecting these adjacent areas could impact the badger and further surveys would be needed.