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The American Badger

The American or prairie badger (Taxidea taxus) is widespread in the prairies and savannas of western North America. The American badger is a stout-bodied and stubby-tailed animal. It has strong front legs armed with long, sturdy claws useful for digging and shorterclawed hind legs. The primary color of the fur is grayish to brownish-red, with a black or dark-brown snout and feet, and bright white markings on the face and top of the head, extending over the front of the back. The hair is longest on the sides of the animal, which accentuates the rather compressed appearance of this species. Males are somewhat larger than females, and can be as long as about 3 ft ([1 m] body plus the tail) and weigh as much as 22 lb (10 kg).

The American badger is a solitary animal during most of the year, coming together only during the breeding season. This species is highly fossorial, and it digs numerous dens. The dens may be used for breeding by successive generations of animals and can be complicated assemblages of tunnels, access holes, and chambers. The sleeping chambers are comfortably lined with grassy hay, which is renewed frequently for cleanliness. However, individual badgers may change their dens rather frequently, sometimes moving around and digging new holes over a rather extensive area. Defecation occurs in holes dug aboveground, which are then covered up. Badgers in northern and alpine parts of the range of the species will hibernate during the winter, but more southerly populations are active throughout the year. American badgers scent-mark their territory, using secretions from a pair of anal glands.

The American badger is primarily a carnivore, catching its own prey or scavenging dead animals. However, it also feeds on plant materials. Prey species include rabbits, ground squirrels, small mammals such as mice and voles, ground-nesting birds, earthworms, snails, and insects. Foraging can occur at any time of day, but most commonly around the late afternoon to dusk. Burrowing prey are excavated by vigorous, extensive digging. Baby badgers are born in the early springtime, and they disperse from the natal den in the following autumn.

The American badger has a relatively dense and lustrous fur, which in the past was of commercial value, mostly for use as a fur trim, and also for the manufacturing of shaving brushes. The American badger is considered by some farmers and ranchers to be a pest, primarily because its access holes can represent a leg-breaking hazard to large livestock. Consequently, this species has been excessively trapped and poisoned in many areas, greatly reducing the extent and abundance of its wild populations. Attempts have been made to cultivate American badgers on fur farms, but these did not prove successful.

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