Field Guide to Mammals
of Southern California
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American Badger (Taxidea taxus)
Distribution of American badger on National Forest System lands is spotty and not well documented (Stephenson and Calcarone 1999). This species is known to occur, or could potentially occur, on all four southern California national forests. Known localities in the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains on the San Bernardino National Forest are largely in desert montane areas. These include Highway 243 south of Banning, Coxey Creek, Burnt Flats, Redonda Ridge, Lone Pine Canyon, and Cajon Wash northwest of the city of San Bernardino (Stephenson and Calcarone 1999). Similar habitat associations were reported by Vaughan (1954) for the San Gabriel Mountains on the Angeles National Forest, where evidence of American badgers was most commonly found in Joshua tree woodlands and pinyon-juniper associations on desert slopes. Additional records for the San Bernardino Mountains include observations of road-killed badgers at Mill Creek Ranger Station, and in the towns of San Bernardino and Colton adjacent to the San Bernardino Mountains, as well as sight records for Banning, Big Bear Ranger Station, and Burnt Flats. Known localities on and adjacent to the Cleveland National Forest are mostly on private land in coastal foothill valleys near Ramona, Pamo Valley, Santa Ysabel, Witch Creek, and Sweetwater Reservoir (Stephenson and Calcarone 1999). Six records for American badger were reported by the Ojai Ranger District of the Los Padres National Forest during 1996 field surveys.
Long (1972) recognized four subspecies of American badger in North America. On the basis of museum specimens, he identified two separate subspecies, T. t. jeffersonii and T. t. berlandieri, as occurring in California. T. t. jeffersonii is generally larger and darker-colored and is found in cool, moist areas along the Pacific coast, most of the Sierra Nevada, and most of the Great Basin regions of California (Williams 1986). T. t. berlandieri is smaller and lighter-colored and is found in hotter, drier grassland associations in the Central Valley and desert areas in southeastern California (Williams 1986).
American badgers occur in a wide variety of open, arid habitats, but are most commonly associated with grasslands, savannas, mountain meadows, and open areas of desert scrub (Stephenson and Calcarone 1999). They are not usually found in mature chaparral (Quinn 1990). The principal habitat requirements for this species appear to be sufficient food (burrowing rodents), friable soils, and relatively open, uncultivated ground (Williams 1986). American badgers are primarily found in areas of low to moderate slope (Stephenson and Calcarone 1999). Burrows are used for denning, escape, and predation on burrowing rodents (Long 1973).
American badgers mate in summer and early autumn, and young are born in March and early April (Long 1973). The average litter size is about three, but ranges from one to five. Male badgers are polygamous but usually do not reach sexual maturity until two years of age. Females generally reach sexual maturity as yearlings; impregnation has been reported in juvenile females as early as 4–5 months of age (Long 1973).
American badgers are mostly nocturnal, but they have also been reported to forage and disperse during the daytime (Lindzey 1978, Messick and Hornocker 1981). American badgers are usually solitary, except during the mating season and when females are rearing young (Long 1973). The species is active year-round, except at high elevations and latitudes, where individuals become torpid during the winter. At lower elevations, American badgers exhibit reduced surface activity (Long 1973) and have been known to remain in a single burrow for days or weeks (Messick and Hornocker 1981).
Diet and Foraging
American badgers are carnivorous and are opportunistic predators, feeding on mammal species such as mice, chipmunks, ground squirrels, gophers, rabbits, and kangaroo rats. They also eat reptiles, insects, birds and their eggs, and carrion (Williams 1986, Zeiner and others 1990).
There is little information available on the territoriality of American badgers. Family members may share the territory of a female (Seton 1929). Males are generally solitary except in the breeding season (Messick and Hornocker 1981). American badgers have large home ranges. Although home range size varies according to geographic area, distribution of food resources, and season, the general range of this species is 395–2,100 acres (137–850 hectares) (Lindzey 1978, Messick and Hornocker 1981, Sargeant and Warner 1972).
American badger is a ferocious fighter (Long 1973) and has very few predators. Coyotes and golden eagles have been reported to prey on American badgers (Long 1973).
Grinnell, D.J.; Dixon, J.S.; Linsdale, J.M. 1937. Fur-bearer mammals of California: Their natural history, systematic status, relationship to man. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Hall, E.R. 1981. The mammals of North America. 2d ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Larson, C.J. 1987. Badger distribution study. California Department of Fish and Game. Non-game wildlife investigations report. Project W-65-R-4.
Lindzey, F.G. 1978. Movement patterns of badgers in northwestern Utah. Journal of Wildlife Management 42: 418-422.
Long, C.A. 1972. Taxonomic revision of the North American badger, Taxidea taxus. Journal of Mammalogy 53: 725-729.
Long, C.A. 1973. Taxidea taxus. Mammalian Species 26: 1-4. Published by the American Society of Mammalogists.
Messick, J.P.; Hornocker, M.G. 1981. Ecology of the badger in southwestern Idaho. Wildlife Monographs 76: 1-53.
Minta, S.C.; Minta, K.A.; Lott, D.F. 1992. Hunting associations between badgers (Taxidea taxus) and coyotes (Canis latrans). Journal of Mammalogy. 73(4): 814-820.
Quinn, R.D. 1990. Habitat preferences and distribution of mammals in California chaparral. PSW-202. Berkeley, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Sargeant, A.B.; Warner, D.W. 1972. Movement and denning habits of a badger. Journal of Mammalogy 61: 375-376.
Seton, E.T. 1929. Lives of game animals. 4 volumes. Doubleday and Co., Garden City, NY.
Skinner, S. 1990. Earthmover. Wyoming Wildlife. 54(2): 4-9.
Stephenson, J.R.; Calcarone, G.M. 1999. Southern California mountains and foothills assessment: Habitat and species conservation issues. General Technical Report GTR-PSW-172. Albany, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Vaughan, T.A. 1954. Mammals of the San Gabriel Mountains of California. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Publication.
Williams, D.F. 1986. Mammalian species of concern in California. California Department of Fish and Game Report 86-1. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Fish and Game.
Zeiner, D.C.; Laudenslayer, W.F., Jr.; Mayer, K.E.; White, M., eds. 1990. California's Wildlife. Volume III: Mammals. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Fish and Game.
Information gathered from California DFG - California Interagency Wildlife Task Group