Wild Profile: Meet the American badger

Updated: September 9, 2019

By Matt Knoth/Shutterstock

These shaggy, stumpy-legged weasels are known for their wedge-shaped heads, their black facial “badges,” and, of course, their aggression. But they’re also champion tunnel diggers.

Thanks to muscular forelegs and curved claws—up to five cm long—an American badger can plow through one metre of soil in one minute, usually when it’s after underground prey: marmots, pocket gophers, or rodents. You might not see a badger—they prefer to avoid people, and, largely because of habitat loss, their numbers are seriously dwindling. But you can recognize the distinct entrances to their dens: a 20- to 30-cm-wide opening shaped like a sideways “D.” 

American badgers don’t hibernate, but, like other birds and mammals, they do fatten up in the fall, and increase their body weight by about 30 per cent. Outside of the summer mating season, badgers are solitary, but they will hunt in tandem. In tandem with a coyote, that is. The badger tunnels into a rodent’s den entrance while the coyote guards the exit; the coyote then either snatches the prey when it tries to escape, or herds it back to the waiting badger. Teamwork makes the dinner work!

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