Index of Species Information
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Taxidea taxus
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Taxidea taxus
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Sullivan, Janet. 1996. Taxidea taxus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ .
COMMON NAMES :
North American badger
The currently accepted scientific name for American badger is Taxidea taxus
(Schreber). It is a member of the weasel family (Mustelidae) and is the
only extant member of its genus. The accepted subspecies are as follows :
T. t. berlandieri Baird
T. t. jacksoni Schautz
T. t. jeffersonii (Harlan)
T. t. taxus (Schreber)
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
The American badger is listed by the state of Indiana as endangered or threatened
; however, populations are thought to be stable in Indiana, and are
perhaps expanding southward because of increases in open land and
cultivated areas .
WILDLIFE DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Taxidea taxus
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
American badgers are widely distributed in North America from central Alberta
south to central Mexico, and from the Pacific coast east to the Great
Lakes States . Subspecies distributions are as follows.
T. t. berlandieri occurs from Oklahoma and Texas to the northern Sierra
Nevada and south to Mexico.
T. t. jacksoni occurs from Ohio and extreme southeastern Ontario to
Michigan, northern Indiana, northern Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota,
Quebec, and southeastern Saskatchewan.
T. t. jeffersonii occurs in the western Great Plains from Colorado,
Wyoming, and eastern Montana to southern British Columbia, Washington,
Oregon, western California, and northern Baja California.
T. t. taxus occurs from western Ohio, Indiana, and northern and western
Missouri to eastern Colorado, eastern Wyoming, and eastern Montana;
north to Alberta, Manitoba, and southwestern Saskatchewan.
There is considerable overlap in the ranges of subspecies, with
intermediate forms occurring in the areas of overlap. American badgers are
undergoing range extensions eastward through escape or release of
captive animals, and because of changes in agricultural patterns .
FRES10 White-red-jack pine
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES24 Hemlock-Sitka spruce
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES32 Texas savanna
FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe
FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES37 Mountain meadows
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES40 Desert grasslands
FRES42 Annual grasslands
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
15 Black Hills Uplift
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K016 Eastern ponderosa forest
K017 Black Hills pine forest
K018 Pine-Douglas-fir forest
K019 Arizona pine forest
K022 Great Basin pine forest
K024 Juniper steppe woodland
K034 Montane chaparral
K037 Mountain-mahogany-oak scrub
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K053 Grama-galleta steppe
K054 Grama-tobosa prairie
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe
K057 Galleta-three-awn shrubsteppe
K058 Grama-tobosa shrubsteppe
K059 Trans-Pecos shrub savanna
K063 Foothills prairie
K069 Bluestem-grama prairie
K070 Sandsage-bluestem prairie
K074 Bluestem prairie
K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie
K076 Blackland prairie
K077 Bluestem-sacahuista prairie
K088 Fayette prairie
SAF COVER TYPES :
237 Interior ponderosa pine
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
101 Bluebunch wheatgrass
102 Idaho fescue
103 Green fescue
104 Antelope bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
105 Antelope bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
106 Bluegrass scabland
107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass
204 North coastal shrub
205 Coastal sage shrub
206 Chamise chaparral
207 Scrub oak mixed chaparral
208 Ceanothus mixed chaparral
209 Montane shrubland
211 Creosotebush scrub
215 Valley grassland
301 Bluebunch wheatgrass-blue grama
302 Bluebunch wheatgrass-Sandberg bluegrass
303 Bluebunch wheatgrass-western wheatgrass
304 Idaho fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
305 Idaho fescue-Richardson needlegrass
306 Idaho fescue-slender wheatgrass
307 Idaho fescue-threadleaf sedge
308 Idaho fescue-tufted hairgrass
309 Idaho fescue-western wheatgrass
311 Rough fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
312 Rough fescue-Idaho fescue
313 Tufted hairgrass-sedge
322 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany-bluebunch wheatgrass
323 Shrubby cinquefoil-rough fescue
413 Gambel oak
414 Salt desert shrub
415 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany
416 True mountain-mahogany
503 Arizona chaparral
505 Grama-tobosa shrub
507 Palo verde-cactus
509 Transition between oak-juniper woodland and mahogany-oak association
601 Bluestem prairie
602 Bluestem-prairie sandreed
603 Prairie sandreed-needlegrass
604 Bluestem-grama prairie
605 Sandsage prairie
611 Blue grama-buffalograss
614 Crested wheatgrass
701 Alkali sacaton-tobosagrass
702 Black grama-alkali sacaton
703 Black grama-sideoats grama
704 Blue grama-western wheatgrass
705 Blue grama-galleta
706 Blue grama-sideoats grama
707 Blue grama-sideoats grama-black grama
710 Bluestem prairie
711 Bluestem-sacahuista prairie
712 Galleta-alkali sacaton
717 Little bluestem-Indiangrass-Texas wintergrass
720 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (dunes)
721 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (plains)
722 Sand sagebrush-mixed prairie
724 Sideoats grama-New Mexico feathergrass-winterfat
802 Missouri prairie
803 Missouri glades
804 Tall fescue
819 Freshwater marsh and ponds
PLANT COMMUNITIES :
American badgers are most commonly found in treeless areas including tallgrass
and shortgrass prairies, grass-dominated meadows and fields within
forested habitats, and shrub-steppe communities. In the Southwest plant
indicators of the Sonoran and Transition life zones (relatively low, dry
elevations) commonly associated with American badgers include creosotebush
(Larrea tridentata), junipers (Juniperus spp.), Gambel oak (Quercus
gambelii), willows (Salix spp.), cottonwoods (Populus spp.), ponderosa
pine (Pinus ponderosa), grasses, and sagebrushes (Artemisia spp.) .
In Colorado American badgers are common in grass-forb and ponderosa pine habitats
. In Kansas American badgers are common in tallgrass prairie dominated by
big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium
scoparium), and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) . In Montana
American badgers are present in Glacier National Park in fescue (Festuca spp.)
grasslands . In Manitoba American badgers occur in grassland extensions
within aspen (Populus spp.) parklands .
BIOLOGICAL DATA AND HABITAT REQUIREMENTS
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Taxidea taxus
TIMING OF MAJOR LIFE HISTORY EVENTS :
Seasonal Activity Patterns: At high elevations and latitudes American badgers
are inactive, perhaps even torpid, for extended periods in winter. They
are not true hibernators and emerge from their dens on winter days when
the temperatures are above freezing .
Diurnal Activity: American badgers are largely nocturnal but have been reported
active during the day as well .
Breeding Season: Mating occurs in late summer and early fall .
Gestation and Parturition: American badgers experience delayed implantation.
Pregnancies are suspended until December or as late as February. Young
are born from late March to early April . Litters range from one to
five young , averaging about three .
Development of Young: American badgers are born blind, furred, and helpless
. Eyes open at 4 to 6 weeks. The female feeds her young solid
foods prior to complete weaning, and for a few weeks thereafter .
Young American badgers first emerge from the den on their own at 5 to 6 weeks
[16,20]. Families usually break up and juveniles disperse from the end
of June to August; Messick and Hornocker  reported that young
American badgers left their mother as early as late May or June. Juvenile
dispersal movements are erratic .
Sexual Maturity: Most female American badgers become pregnant for the first time
after thay are 1 year old. A minority of females 4 to 5 months old
ovulate and a few become pregnant. Males usually do not breed until
their second year .
Mortality and Longevity: Major causes of adult American badger mortality
include, in order, automobiles, farmers (by various methods), sport
shooting, and fur trapping. Large predators occasionally kill American badgers
. Yearly mortality has been estimated at 35 percent for populations
in equilibrium . Lindzey  reported that average longevity was 9
to 10 years in the wild. The longevity record for wild American badgers is 14
years; a captive American badger lived at least 15 years 5 months .
PREFERRED HABITAT :
American badgers occur primarily in grasslands, parklands, farms, and other
treeless areas with friable soil and a supply of rodent prey [1,6].
They are also found in forest glades and meadows, marshes, brushy areas,
hot deserts, and mountain meadows. American badgers are sometimes found at
elevations up to 12,000 feet (3,600 m) but are usually found in the
Sonoran and Transition life zones (which are at elevations lower and
warmer than those characterized by coniferous forests) . In Arizona
American badgers occur in desert scrub and semidesert grasslands . In
California American badgers are occasionally found in open chaparral (with less
than 50% plant cover) and riparian zones. They are not usually found in
mature chaparral . In Manitoba aspen parklands American badger abundance was
positively associated with the abundance of Richardson's ground
squirrels (Spermophilus richardsonii) .
Home Range: American badger use of home range varies with season and sex of the
American badger. Different areas of the home range are used more frequently at
different seasons and usually are related to prey availability. Males
generally have larger home ranges than females. Radio-transmitter
tagged American badgers had an average annual home range of 2,100 acres (850 ha).
The home range of one female was 1,790 acres (725 ha) in summer, 131
acres (53 ha) in fall, and 5 acres (2 ha) in winter . Lindzey 
reported average home ranges of 667 to 1,550 acres (270-627 ha).
Population Density: Estimated density of American badgers in Utah scrub-steppe
was 1 American badger per square mile (2.6 sq km), or 10 dens per square mile
(assuming a single American badger has 10 dens in current or recent use) .
COVER REQUIREMENTS :
American badgers enlarge hunting burrows for concealment, protection from
weather, and as natal dens; burrows are up to 30 feet (10 m) long and 10
feet (3 m) deep. Large mounds of soil are built up at burrow entrances .
During the summer American badgers usually use a new den each day; holes are
usually excavated at least a few days prior to their being used as a
den. There was an average of 0.64 dens (in use, signified by an open
hole) per acre (1.6/ha) in northern Utah scrub steppe . Where prey
is particularly plentiful, American badgers will reuse dens . In the fall
American badgers tend to reuse dens, sometimes for a few days at a time. In
winter a single den may be used for the majority of the season .
Natal dens are dug by the female and are used for extended periods, but
litters are often moved several times, probably to allow the mother to
forage in new areas close to the nursery. Natal dens are usually larger
and more complex than diurnal dens .
FOOD HABITS :
The American badger is largely carnivorous although some plant foods (e.g.,
sunflower [Helianthus spp.] seeds, corn [Zea mays], and small grains)
are consumed. American badgers prey mainly on small vertebrates, especially
fossorial rodents. Commonly taken rodents include moles (Talpidae),
marmots (Marmota spp.), mice (Muridae), woodrats (Neotoma spp.),
kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spp.), ground squirrels (Spermophilus spp.),
pocket gophers (Thomomys spp.), and prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.).
Occasionally lagomorphs are taken, usually only if suprised or trapped
in burrows. Other food items include fish, snakes, lizards, carrion,
hibernating skunks (Mephitis and Spilogale spp.), insects, honeycombs,
bees, larvae, and eggs and nestlings of ground-nesting birds such as
bank swallows (Riparia riparia) [18,19,28] and burrowing owls (Athene
cunicularia) . American badger predation on coyote pups (Canis latrans) has
also been reported . American badgers may be nest predators of the
ground-nesting short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) . Long  reported
a American badger with five western toads (Bufo boreas) in its stomach, in
addition to a salamander (Ambystoma spp.) and five meadow voles
(Microtus pennsylvanicus). Caching of food has been reported .
Hunting: American badgers enlarge and dig out the burrows of fossorial rodents
in pursuit of prey. They have been observed to plug accessory entrances
to burrow systems, presumably to trap prey within the burrow. They also
dig into a burrow from the "back entrance" and then lurk in the main
entrance, capturing prey as it enters the burrow .
Coyotes have been observed following American badgers while American badgers were
foraging, capturing rodents flushed from burrows by the American badger [21,28].
In a big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata)-rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnos
spp.) community in Wyoming, Uinta ground squirrels (Spermophilus
armatus) comprised the majority of American badger prey. Coyotes that followed
American badgers greatly benefited from the hunting association. It was
difficult to assess whether the American badger benefited from the hunting
association. It was suggested that coyotes could increase American badger
hunting efficiency by remaining at burrow exits, thus keeping ground
squirrels from using them. Coyotes also help find new burrow areas, and
appear to encourage American badgers to move to new hunting areas by chasing-play
behaviors. Since American badger hunting efficiency could not be assessed
directly, time spent below ground was presumed to indicate hunting
success. American badgers with coyote "partners" spent more time below ground
and presumably caught more ground squirrels than solitary hunting
American badgers. American badger behavior in the company of coyotes indicated that the
coyote association was either neutral or positive, since American badgers often
tolerated coyotes in close proximity and engaged in play behaviors with
The American badger is an aggressive animal and has few natural enemies. There
are reports of predation on American badgers by golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos),
coyote , cougar (Felis concolor), and bobcat (Lynx rufus) .
Bears (Ursus spp.) and gray wolf (Canis lupus) occasionally kill American badger .
MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Ecological Considerations: American badgers create patch disturbances in
tallgrass prairie, altering local plant communities and loosening the
soil . American badger holes are sometimes used by burrowing owls for nest
sites; in some areas American badger holes are the only size-appropriate holes
available. Nest success is, however, somewhat lower for owls using
American badger holes . American badger activity was noted on some reclaimed surface
coal mine plots that were seeded to grasses. American badger populations in
neighboring undisturbed big sagebrush communities were larger and more
Economic Considerations: American badgers may help control, and even
substantially reduce, rodent populations in agricultural areas, but
numerous large holes are produced in the process. These holes are
sometimes hazardous to livestock and machinery [1,19].
Parasites and diseases of American badgers have been discussed by Lindzey 
and Long and Killingley .
FIRE EFFECTS AND USE
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Taxidea taxus
DIRECT FIRE EFFECTS ON ANIMALS :
American badgers are rarely threatened by fire even though they occur in
fire-prone plant communities. There are no reports of direct mortality
by fire in the literature. The American badger spends most of the day (when
fires would burn hottest) underground; it digs rapidly and deeply when
threatened; and burrows tend to have more than one entrance,
facilitating air movement and reducing the chance of asphyxiation.
HABITAT RELATED FIRE EFFECTS :
The most important effect of fire on American badger habitat is its effect on
prey populations. American badgers probably leave a burned area if rodent
populations decline; however, some rodents increase on fire-disturbed
areas, making it likely that American badger activity would also increase in
those areas. In a southwestern Idaho shadscale (Atriplex
confertifolia)-winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata) community, wildfire
reduced the abundance of small mammals in the first postfire year. In
the same year, American badger numbers were lower (by hole counts) on burned
sites than on adjacent unburned sites . Also in southwestern Idaho,
desert shrublands were converted to annual grasslands due to wildfire.
The major prey of American badgers in this area, Townsend's ground squirrels
(Spermophilus townsendii), experienced more widely fluctuating
populations on burned areas than on unburned areas. It was concluded
that wildfire in this community destablized the prey base, and would
adversely affect American badgers . In Kansas tallgrass prairie there were
slightly fewer American badgers on burned areas sampled in the first postfire
growing season than on unburned areas (three versus six American badgers) .
Pocket gophers, which are a major prey item for American badgers in western North
America, often increase on lands disturbed by fire (also road building,
logging, silvicultural site preparation, and other activities that open
tree canopies and/or disturb the soil) . Early postfire succession
in California chaparral communities is often accompanied by large
populations of fossorial rodents such as California ground squirrel (S.
beecheyi) and kangaroo rats  and would thus attract American badgers .
FIRE USE :
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Taxidea taxus
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