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North American Badger

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Issue: 65 Section: Baby Animals Geography: Canada, USA

November 25, 2009

North American Badger

Diggin' it

by Claire Helen Williams

This proud creature, recognizable by the distinctive white stripe on its otherwise dark brown and black coat, can be found in Central Canada, Western and Central parts of the US, and Northern Mexico.

These solitary souls keep to themselves for most of the year. Communal activity is restricted to the summer mating season and when the females are rearing their young.

Badgers are known for being keen diggers, and justifiably so. Indeed, one of their best defence mechanisms is their ability to dig at an alarmingly fast rate. When in danger, badgers dig to safety, disappearing far underground in less than a minute.

They also dig in order to construct burrows, used for living and pursuing prey. Not content with just one abode, badgers switch between their dens during the warmer months, sometimes on a nightly basis. This high level of activity decreases in the colder months, and during the winter they tend to settle for one den in particular. This allows badgers to spend much of the winter drifting in and out of periods of deep sleep, each of which can last up to 29 hours.

By no means a fussy eater, a badger will feast on squirrels, moles, skunks, ground-nesting birds, lizards, frogs, insects, but also foods like cereals, peas, mushrooms and sunflower seeds.

Although badgers are largely peaceful creatures, the North American badger’s Eurasian cousin is the unfortunate key participant in the blood sport of "badger baiting," which emerged during the Middle Ages in Europe. This involves confining a badger to a small space, letting dogs into this enclosure, and goading them to fight the badger to death. Bets are placed on the outcome.

Unable to dig its way to safety, the badger shows remarkable bravery when cornered by the dogs. Its sharp bite, powerful claws and reckless defence reflexes make it a formidable adversary. Yet badger baiting almost always ends in the death of the badger, while the dogs may only sustain injuries. Despite being illegal, this blood sport still takes place in secret in some parts of Europe.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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