With their flattened, oval shaped, long grizzled brownish fur, distinctive white stripe on the forehead (sometimes continuing down the back) and powerful build, badgers are easy to identify. They are the "bulldozer" of the weasel family. Large front claws suggest a capable burrower. The face is black with pale marks, the feet are black and the belly is pale. Total length is 28-32 inches, a short tail only four to six inches in length. Weights range from 11-22 pounds.
Badgers are well protected from most predators by a thick hide and generally unpleasant disposition. Some are killed for fur, but habitat loss and vehicular accidents are greater causes of mortality.
Badgers are animals of open country. Their oval burrows (ten inches across and four to six inches high) are familiar features of grasslands on sandy or loamy soils of the eastern plains or shrub country in mountain parks or western valleys. Badgers occasionally live above timberline.
Badgers eat mostly burrowing rodents, such as ground squirrels and pocket gophers, which they dig up during evening or early morning. They also eat nestling birds and rabbits, as well as insects. When frozen ground protects burrowing rodents from attack, badgers turn to mice. In especially cold weather, badgers may simply retreat to their burrow to sleep.
Badgers mate in late summer. Implantation of embryos is delayed until February. One to four young are born in early spring. They grow quickly and leave their mothers during their first autumn. They first breed as yearlings.
By David M. Armstrong Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Environmental Studies Program, University Museum of Natural History University of Colorado-Boulder