Generally not practical.
Controlling rodent populations may
make habitats less suitable for
The badger (Taxidea taxus) is a stocky,
medium-sized mammal with a broad
head, a short, thick neck, short legs,
and a short, bushy tail. Its front legs
are stout and muscular, and its front
claws are long. It is silver-gray, has
long guard hairs, a black patch on each
cheek, black feet, and a characteristic
white stripe extending from its nose
over the top of its head. The length of
this stripe down the back varies. Badgers
may weigh up to 30 pounds (13.5
kg), but average about 19 pounds (8.6
kg) for males and 14 pounds (6.3 kg)
for females. Eyeshine at night is green.
General Biology, Reproduction, and Behavior
Badgers are members of the weasel
family and have the musky odor characteristic
of this family. They are especially
adapted for burrowing, with
strong front legs equipped with long,
well-developed claws. Their digging
capability is used to pursue and capture
ground-dwelling prey. Typical
burrows dug in pursuit of prey are
shallow and about 1 foot (30 cm) in
diameter. A female badger will dig a
deeper burrow (5 to 30 feet long [1.5 to
9 m]) with an enlarged chamber 2 to 3
feet (0.6 to 0.9 m) below the surface in
which to give birth. Dens usually have
a single, often elliptical entrance, typically
marked by a mound of soil in the
Badgers have a rather ferocious
appearance when confronted, and
often make short charges at an
intruder. They may hiss, growl, or
snarl when fighting or cornered. Their
quick movements, loose hide, muscular
body, and tendency to retreat
quickly into a den provide protection
from most predators. Larger predators
such as mountain lions, bears, and
wolves will kill adult badgers. Coyotes
and eagles will take young badgers.
Badgers are active at night, remaining
in dens during daylight hours, but are
often seen at dawn or dusk. During
winter they may remain inactive in
their burrows for up to a month,
although they are not true hibernators.
Male badgers are solitary except during
the mating season, and females are
solitary except when mating or rearing
young. Densities of badgers are
reported to be about 1 per square mile
(0.4/km2) although densities as high as
5 to 15 badgers per square mile (1.9 to
5.8/km2) have been reported. An adult
male’s home range may be as large as
2.5 square miles (6.5 km2); the home
range of adult females is typically
about half that size. Badgers may use
as little as 10% of their range during
Badgers breed in summer and early
fall, but have delayed implantation,
with active gestation beginning around
February. Some yearling females may
breed, but yearling males do not. As
many as 5 young, but usually 2 or 3,
are born in early spring. Young nurse
for 5 to 6 weeks, and they may remain
with the female until midsummer.
Most young disperse from their
mother’s range and may move up to
32 miles (52 km). Badgers may live up
to 14 years in the wild; a badger in a
zoo lived to be 15 1/2 years of age.
Damage and Damage
Most damage caused by badgers
results from their digging in pursuit of
prey. Open burrows create a hazard to
livestock and horseback riders. Badger
diggings in crop fields may slow harvesting
or cause damage to machinery.
Digging can also damage earthen
dams or dikes and irrigation canals,
resulting in flooding and the loss of
irrigation water. Diggings on the
shoulders of roads can lead to erosion
and the collapse of road surfaces. In
late summer and fall, watch for signs
of digging that indicate that young
badgers have moved into the area.
Badgers will occasionally prey on livestock
or poultry, gaining access to protected
animals by digging under fences
or through the floor of a poultry
house. Tracks can indicate the presence
of badgers, but to the novice, badger
tracks may appear similar to
coyote tracks (see Coyotes). Claw
marks are farther from the toe pad in
badger tracks, however, and the front
tracks have a pigeon-toed appearance
Badgers usually consume all of a prairie
dog except the head and the fur
along the back. This characteristic
probably holds true for much of their
prey; however, signs of digging near
the remains of prey are the best evidence
of predation by a badger.
Because badgers will kill black-footed
ferrets, their presence is of concern in
reintroduction programs for this
Fig. 2. Range of the badger in North America.
The badger is widely distributed in the
contiguous United States. Its range
extends southward from the Great
Lakes states to the Ohio Valley and
westward through the Great Plains to
the Pacific Coast, though not west of
the Cascade mountain range in the
Northwest (Fig. 2). Badgers are found
at elevations of up to 12,000 feet
Badgers prefer open country with light
to moderate cover, such as pastures
and rangelands inhabited by burrowing
rodents. They are seldom found in
areas that have many trees.
Badgers are opportunists, preying on
ground-nesting birds and their eggs,
mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and
insects. Common dietary items are
ground squirrels, pocket gophers,
prairie dogs, and other smaller rodents.
Occasionally they eat vegetable
matter. Metabolism studies indicate
that an average badger must eat about
two ground squirrels or pocket
gophers daily to maintain its weight.
Badgers may occasionally kill small
lambs and young domestic turkeys,
parts of which they often will bury.
Hawthorne, D. W. 1980. Wildlife damage and
control techniques. Pages 411-439 in S. D.
Schemnitz, ed. Wildlife management
techniques manual. The Wildl. Soc.,
Lindzey, F. C. 1982. Badger. Pages 653-663 in
J. A. Chapman and G. A. Feldhamer, eds.
Wild mammals of North America: biology,
management, and economics. The Johns
Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
Long, C. A. 1973. Taxidea taxus. Mammal. Spec.
Messick, J. P. 1987. North American badger.
Pages 584-597 in M. Novak, J. A. Baker, M. E.
Obbard, and B. Malloch, eds. Wild furbearer
management and conservation in North
America. Ontario Ministry of Nat. Resour.
Minta, S. C., and R. E. Marsh. 1988. Badgers
(Taxidea taxus) as occasional pests in
agriculture. Proc. Vertebr. Pest. Conf. 13:199-
Sargeant, A. B., and D. W. Warner. 1972.
Movements and denning habits of a badger,
J. Mammal. 53:207-210.
Schwartz, C. W., and E. R. Schwartz. 1981. The
wild mammals of Missouri, rev. ed. Univ.
Missouri Press, Columbia. 356 pp.
Wade, D. A. 1973. Control of damage by coyotes
and some other carnivores. Coop. Ext. Serv.
Pub. WR P-11, Colorado State Univ., Fort
Collins. 29 pp.
Wade, D. A., and J. E. Bowns. 1982. Procedures
for evaluating predation on livestock and
wildlife. Bull. B-1429, Texas A & M Univ.
System, College Sta., and the US Fish Wildl.
Serv. 42 pp.
Scott E. Hygnstrom
Robert M. Timm
Gary E. Larson
In some states, badgers are classified
as furbearers and protected by regulated
trapping seasons, while in other
states they receive no legal protection.
Contact your state wildlife agency
before conducting lethal control of
Damage Prevention and
Mesh fencing buried to a depth of 12
to 18 inches (30 to 46 cm) can exclude
most badgers. The cost and effort to
construct such fences, however, preclude
their use for large areas.
Control of rodents, particularly burrowing
rodents, offers the greatest
potential for alleviating problems
resulting from badger diggings. For
example, controlling ground squirrels
or pocket gophers in alfalfa fields will
likely result in badgers hunting elsewhere.
Badgers may be discouraged from a
problem area by the use of bright
lights at night. High-intensity lamps
used to light up a farmyard may discourage
badger predation on poultry.
Badgers can be removed by using live
traps and/or leghold traps set like
those for coyotes (see Coyotes). Snares
have been used with mixed success.
Badgers often return to old diggings.
A good bait for badgers is a dead
chicken placed within a recently dug
burrow. Fur trapping may reduce badger
populations locally, but badger
pelts are generally of little value and
most badgers are caught incidentally.
Leghold traps (No. 3 or 4) are adequate
to hold a badger. Rather than
staking the trap to the ground, it is better
to attach it to a drag such as a
strong limb or similar object that the
badger cannot pull down into its burrow.
Badgers will often dig in a circle
around a stake, sometimes enough to
loosen the stake and drag the trap
Badgers can be controlled by shooting.
Spotlighting, if legal, can be effective.
Incidental shooting has contributed to
reducing their numbers in some areas.
This chapter is a revision of the chapter on
badgers by Norman C. Johnson in the 1983
edition of Prevention and Control of Wildlife
Damage. F. Robert Henderson and Steve Minta
provided information included in this chapter.
Figures 1 and 2 from Schwartz and Schwartz
H F H
*The above information was taken from a University of Nebraska Web site with
express permission of Stephen Vatassel, wildlife damage project coordinator.