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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: []. ABBREVIATION : TATA COMMON NAMES : American badger North American badger TAXONOMY : 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 [12]: Taxidea taxus berlandieri Baird Taxidea taxus jacksoni Schautz Taxidea taxus jeffersonii (Harlan) Taxidea taxus taxus (Schreber) ORDER : Carnivora CLASS : Mammal FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : The American badger is listed by the state of Indiana as endangered or threatened [34]; however, populations are thought to be stable in Indiana, and are perhaps expanding southward because of increases in open land and cultivated areas [32].


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 [19]. Subspecies distributions are as follows. Taxidea taxus berlandieri occurs from Oklahoma and Texas to the northern Sierra Nevada and south to Mexico. Taxidea taxus jacksoni occurs from Ohio and extreme southeastern Ontario to Michigan, northern Indiana, northern Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Quebec, and southeastern Saskatchewan. Taxidea taxus 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. Taxidea taxus 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 [19]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White-red-jack pine FRES11 Spruce-fir FRES14 Oak-pine FRES15 Oak-hickory FRES17 Elm-ash-cottonwood FRES18 Maple-beech-birch FRES19 Aspen-birch FRES20 Douglas-fir FRES21 Ponderosa pine FRES22 Western white pine FRES23 Fir-spruce FRES24 Hemlock-Sitka spruce FRES25 Larch FRES26 Lodgepole pine FRES27 Redwood FRES28 Western hardwoods FRES29 Sagebrush FRES30 Desert shrub FRES31 Shinnery FRES32 Texas savanna FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub FRES35 Pinyon-juniper FRES36 Mountain grasslands FRES37 Mountain meadows FRES38 Plains grasslands FRES39 Prairie FRES40 Desert grasslands FRES42 Annual grasslands STATES :


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 K033 Chaparral K034 Montane chaparral K037 Mountain-mahogany-oak scrub K038 Great Basin sagebrush K040 Saltbush-greasewood K041 Creosotebush K047 Fescue-oatgrass K050 Fescue-wheatgrass K051 Wheatgrass-bluegrass 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 K064 Grama-needlegrass-wheatgrass K065 Grama-buffalograss K066 Wheatgrass-needlegrass K067 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass K068 Wheatgrass-grama-buffalograss K069 Bluestem-grama prairie K070 Sandsage-bluestem prairie K074 Bluestem prairie K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie K076 Blackland prairie K077 Bluestem-sacahuista prairie K085 Mesquite-buffalograss K088 Fayette prairie SAF COVER TYPES : 217 Aspen 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 210 Bitterbrush 211 Creosotebush scrub 212 Blackbush 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 501 Saltbush-greasewood 502 Grama-galleta 503 Arizona chaparral 505 Grama-tobosa shrub 506 Creosotebush-bursage 507 Palo verde-cactus 508 Creosotebush-tarbush 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 606 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass 607 Wheatgrass-needlegrass 608 Wheatgrass-grama-needlegrass 609 Wheatgrass-grama 610 Wheatgrass 611 Blue grama-buffalograss 612 Sagebrush-grass 614 Crested wheatgrass 615 Wheatgrass-saltgrass-grama 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 708 Bluestem-dropseed 709 Bluestem-grama 710 Bluestem prairie 711 Bluestem-sacahuista prairie 712 Galleta-alkali sacaton 713 Grama-muhly-threeawn 714 Grama-bluestem 715 Grama-buffalograss 716 Grama-feathergrass 717 Little bluestem-Indiangrass-Texas wintergrass 718 Mesquite-grama 720 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (dunes) 721 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (plains) 722 Sand sagebrush-mixed prairie 724 Sideoats grama-New Mexico feathergrass-winterfat 801 Savanna 802 Missouri prairie 803 Missouri glades 804 Tall fescue 805 Riparian 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.) [19]. In Colorado American badgers are common in grass-forb and ponderosa pine habitats [22]. In Kansas American badgers are common in tallgrass prairie dominated by big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) [9]. In Montana American badgers are present in Glacier National Park in fescue (Festuca spp.) grasslands [30]. In Manitoba American badgers occur in grassland extensions within aspen (Populus spp.) parklands [3].


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 [18]. Diurnal Activity: American badgers are largely nocturnal but have been reported active during the day as well [18]. Breeding Season: Mating occurs in late summer and early fall [18]. 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 [18]. Litters range from one to five young [16], averaging about three [19]. Development of Young: American badgers are born blind, furred, and helpless [18]. Eyes open at 4 to 6 weeks. The female feeds her young solid foods prior to complete weaning, and for a few weeks thereafter [19]. 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 [20] reported that young American badgers left their mother as early as late May or June. Juvenile dispersal movements are erratic [16]. Sexual Maturity: Most female American badgers become pregnant for the first time after they 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 [18]. 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 [16]. Yearly mortality has been estimated at 35 percent for populations in equilibrium [14]. Lindzey [14] 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 [16]. 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) [19]. In Arizona American badgers occur in desert scrub and semidesert grasslands [5]. 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 [25]. In Manitoba aspen parklands American badger abundance was positively associated with the abundance of Richardson's ground squirrels (Spermophilus richardsonii) [3]. 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 [26]. Lindzey [15] 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) [18]. 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 [1]. 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 [15]. Where prey is particularly plentiful, American badgers will reuse dens [19]. 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 [18]. 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 [16]. 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 surprised 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) [23]. American badger predation on coyote pups (Canis latrans) has also been reported [19]. American badgers may be nest predators of the ground-nesting short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) [31]. Long [17] 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 [19]. 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 [19]. 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 (Chrysothamnus 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 them [21]. PREDATORS : 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 [18], cougar (Felis concolor), and bobcat (Lynx rufus) [28]. Bears (Ursus spp.) and gray wolf (Canis lupus) occasionally kill American badger [16]. MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Ecological Considerations: American badgers create patch disturbances in tallgrass prairie, altering local plant communities and loosening the soil [4]. 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 [23]. 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 stable [24]. 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 [16] and Long and Killingley [19].


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 [11]. 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 [33]. 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) [9]. 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) [29]. 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 [10] and would thus attract American badgers [25]. FIRE USE : NO-ENTRY FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".


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