Badgers

Badgers are sturdy, strongly built mustelids which are primarily found in the Northern Hemisphere, but also have species populating South Africa and Indonesia. All extant species live in burrows called setts, though their usage differs between species with some living in family groups and others living predominantly solitary lives.

Badger species often have strong forelimbs suited for digging, with long curved claws ideal for breaking up dirt. Though in some species such as ferret-badgers, this is not as prominent despite the fact that they still exhibit digging behaviour. Badgers are nocturnal, and come out during the night to feed on a variety of different food sources, such as worms, grubs, small mammals, reptiles and birds; also feeding on berries, roots and fruit.

One feature that is found in all species of badger is distinct facial markings—darker colours contrasting with light. This is the feature which gave rise to a now old-fashioned name for badgers—Bauson, which is a variation on the word Bausond, which refers to piebald markings, whilst also being used to describe a badger’s face.

The following list of species is based on similar common names, and do not necessarily reflex a valid clade.

(1) Asian Badger (Meles leucurus)

Photo by Zoosnow

The Asian badger, also known as the sand badger, is a species native throughout the temperate regions of eastern Europe and Asia.

Appearance

Asian badgers are the smallest of the three Meles species. They are superficially similar looking to the European badger, but exhibit an overall lighter, grayish-silver colouration. Their facial markings also differ slightly, with brown to black facial stripes going over the ears instead of joining up with the ear like the European badger. Asian badgers from Mongolia tend to have a lighter coat, while those from the Amur region are noticeably darker in colour.(1)(2)

Habitat and diet

The Asian badger prefers temperate regions such as forests, but they can also be found in mountainous regions, semi-deserts and tundra habitats.(3) They are generally a nocturnal species, living in communal setts made up of family groups with some solitary individuals in areas with food scarcity. The species feeds on a large variety of small animals such as insects, worms, reptiles, amphibians and birds whilst also feeding on plant material, nuts and berries.(4)

Relationship with humans

Unfortunately these badgers do come into conflict with humans, and there is evidence of them preying on livestock and damaging vineyards which can lead them to being hunted in some of their territories.(3) Thankfully however their population numbers do not appear to have been affected too detrimentally by this.

Size: 50–70 cm / 20–28 in (males)
Weight: 3.5–9 kg / 7.7–19.8 lb (males)
Lifespan: 5–8 years
Range: Southern portions of Russia and east of the Urals, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, and Korea.
Conservation status: Least concern
Recognised subspecies(5)

  1. M. l. amurensis
  2. M. l. arenarius
  3. M. l. leucurus
  4. M. l. sibiricus
  5. M. l. tianschanensis
References

  1. Heptner & Sludskii 2002, p. 1251
  2. Wilson, Don E., and Russell A. Mittermeier. “Handbook of the mammals of the world. Vol. 1. Carnivores.” Lynx Edicions, Barcelona 1 (2009).
  3. Ognev, S. 1962. Mammals of Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. Jerusalem: Published by the National Science Foundation, Washington D.C., by the Israel Program for Scientific Translations.
  4. Murdoch, J., S. Buyandelger. 2010. An account of badger diet in an arid steppe region of Mongolia. Journal of Arid Environments, 74: 1348-1350.
  5. Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). “Order Carnivora”. In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.

(2) European Badger (Meles meles)

Photo by Kallerna

The European badger also known as the Eurasian badger or simply badger, is native to almost all of Europe and some parts of West Asia. Several subspecies are recognized; the nominate subspecies predominates over most of Europe.

Appearance

Conservation status: Least concern

– Source from Wikipedia. The information above needs to be edited with our own words.

(3) Hog Badger (Arctonyx collaris)

Photo by Rushenb

The hog badger, also known as the greater hog badger, is a terrestrial mustelid native to Central and Southeast Asia. It is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species because the global population is thought to be declining due to high levels of poaching.

Appearance

Conservation status: Vulnerable

– Source from Wikipedia. The information above needs to be edited with our own words.

(4) Japanese Badger (Meles anakuma)

Photo by Nzrst1jx

The Japanese badger is endemic to Japan. It is found on Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Shodoshima. It shares the genus Meles with the Asian and European badgers. In Japan it is called by the name nihonanaguma, lit. “Japan hole-bear”.

Appearance

Conservation status: Least concern

– Source from Wikipedia. The information above needs to be edited with our own words.


Although the following are called ‘badgers’, they are not closely related to the ‘true’ badger species above.

(5) American Badger (Taxidea taxus)

Photo by Yathin S Krishnappa

The American badger is found primarily in the Great Plains region of North America. They are stocky mustelids known for their intimidating defensive displays and fearlessness, but also for their secretive nature.(1)

Appearance

The American badger’s short legs and broad bodies would suggest a link to other badger species such as the European badger, however the two are not closely related with the two species belonging to separate genus.(2)American badgers have have grizzled, brown, black and white fur; having a nearly brown-tan appearance. They have black and white patches on their face, including brown to black markings on the cheeks known as “badges”. The throat and chin are whitish, and a white dorsal stripe extends from the nose to the base of the head. In the subspecies T. t. berlandieri, the white dorsal stripe extends the full length of the body to the rump.(3)

Habitat and diet

Their habitat of choice are mainly open prairies where sandy soils make it easier to dig burrows and dig out their prey,(4) which consists of small burrowing animals such as ground squirrels, rats, gophers and other small animals.(5) American badgers can also be found supplementing their diets with plant foods such as corn, green beans and mushrooms.(6)

American badgers live a predominantly nocturnal life which some exceptions in particularly remote areas.(7) Currently the biggest threats to the American badger is the conversion of their natural habitat into intensive agriculture, vehicle collisions and prosecution of their prey species.(8)

Hunting associations between American badgers and coyotes

American badgers and coyotes have been known to hunt prairie dogs and ground-squirrels in tandem. Studies have shown this unusual relationship is beneficial for both species—the coyote will chase down prey that runs from the badger, and the badger will dig after prey if it heads underground to escape the coyote. Typically this pairing is one badger to one coyote, however, one study found about 9% of sightings included two coyotes to one badger, while 1% had one badger to three coyotes.(9)(10)(11)(12)

Size: 60–75 cm / 23.5–29.5 in (males)
Weight: 6–11 kg / 14–25 lb (males), 6–7 kg / 14–16 lb (females)
Lifespan: 10 years
Range: Western and central United States, northern Mexico, and south-central Canada.
Conservation status: Least concern
Recognised subspecies(13)

  1. T. t. berladieri
  2. T. t. jacksoni
  3. T. t. jeffersonii
  4. T. t. marylandica
  5. T. t. taxus
References

  1. “What does it look like?” http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/what-we-do/resource-centre/featured-species/mammals/american_badger.html
  2. Law, C. J.; Slater, G. J.; Mehta, R. S. (2018-01-01). “Lineage Diversity and Size Disparity in Musteloidea: Testing Patterns of Adaptive Radiation Using Molecular and Fossil-Based Methods”. Systematic Biology. 67 (1): 127–144. doi:10.1093/sysbio/syx047
  3. American Society of Mammalogists Staff; Smithsonian Institution Staff (1999). The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. UBC Press. p. 179. ISBN 0-7748-0762-8.
  4. “Habitat” https://nhpbs.org/natureworks/americanbadger.htm
  5. “Diet” https://nhpbs.org/natureworks/americanbadger.htm
  6. “Food Habits” https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Taxidea_taxus/
  7. “Long, Charles A. (1972). “Taxidea taxus” (PDF). Journal of Mammalogy. 26 (26): 1–4. doi:10.2307/3504047. JSTOR 3504047. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-07.”
  8. “Threats to their safety and wellbeing” http://www.wildlifelandtrust.org/wildlife/close-ups/american-badger.html
  9. “Spotted! A Coyote and Badger Hunting Together”fws.gov.
  10. “Why coyotes and badgers hunt together”mnn.com.
  11. “Do coyotes and badgers work together to find food?”howstuffworks.com.
  12. “Video shows coyote and badger on a mission together” https://youtu.be/6RC_6teBS6o CBS News YouTube. Retrieved 02-09-2020.
  13. Long, Charles A. “Taxidea taxus.” Mammalian Species 26 (1973): 1-4.

(6) Honey Badger / Ratel (Mellivora capensis)

Photo by Aleutia

The honey badger, also known as the ratel, is a terrestrial animal that inhabits many habitats, including tropical and subtropical green forests, thorn forests, open woodlands, riparian forests or grasslands, arid steppes, rocky hills, and deserts.(1)(2) It is a mostly solitary and nomadic animal, that is known for its strength and boldness. The honey badger is known to attack almost any other species when it is cornered; including much larger predators such as lions and hyenas.(3) It was listed as the “world’s most fearless animal” in a 2002 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.

Appearance

Though the colour varies slightly by subspecies, generally the lower half of their bodies are dark black, with lighter shades of fur above that are either grey or white. The lighter fur colouring extends from the forehead to the base of the tail.(4) Honey badgers have very thick and loose skin, which gives them an advantage over their predators, by enabling them to easily escape another animal’s grasp.(5)

Diet

Honey badgers are foragers, and eat a variety of smaller food items such as small rodents, snakes, birds, frogs, insect larvae, beetles, scorpions and lizards. They will occasionally catch larger animals like leguaans, crocodiles, pythons, springhares, polecats; including juvenile foxes, jackals, antelope and wild cats.(1) Honey badgers also known to eat fruit, roots, and bulbs.(2)(5) True to their namesake, honey badgers are partial to bee hives. They are known for damaging commercial hives by breaking into the hives and eating the honey. They will even consume the bee larvae inside the honey, which results in a monetary loss for beekeepers.(6)

Honeyguides myth

Contrary to popular belief, there is no persuasive evidence that honeyguides guide honey badgers.(7)(8)(9) It is believed this myth became popular after dishonest wildlife documentary-makers filmed a tamed honey badger interacting with a stuffed honeyguide.(7)(10)

Intelligence

Honey badgers are considered to be very intelligent animals. Recent studies have shown they are capable of problem solving—even if the solution to the problem has changed, they are capable of adapting to that new solution. They are also one of few animals that have been observed using tools—using objects to stand or climb on to escape captivity, or to reach food that would otherwise be out of their reach.(11)

In popular culture

Stoffel is a rescued honey badger that is kept at the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa. His caretaker, Brian Jones, built him a cage to keep out of trouble. However, Stoffel’s incredible escape antics have made him the discussion of the species’ intelligence. Stoffel would dig up rocks and pile them into a corner to reach the top of the wall, when the rocks were removed, he would roll mud balls into a corner to accomplish the same escape. He would also grab rakes, shovels, tyres or any other item he could use to climb out of his cage.(11) A documentary featuring Stoffel was made by the PBS’s Nature TV series, Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem.

Size: 60–70 cm / 23.62–27.56 in (males)
Weight: 10–16 kg / 20–35 lb (males) 5–10 kg / 11–22 lb (females)
Lifespan: 7–8 years
Range: Africa, Southwest Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.
Conservation status: Least concern
Recognised subspecies(12)

  1. M. c. abyssinica
  2. M. c. buechneri
  3. M. c. capensis
  4. M. c. concisa
  5. M. c. cottoni
  6. M. c. inaurita
  7. M. c. indica
  8. M. c. leuconota
  9. M. c. maxwelli
  10. M. c. pumilio
  11. M. c. signata
  12. M. c. wilsoni
References

  1. Do Linh San, E., et al. “Mellivora capensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e. T41629A45210107.” (2016).
  2. Gupta, Shilpi, et al. “Abundance and habitat suitability model for Ratel (Mellivora capensis) in Sariska Tiger Reserve, Western India.” Wildlife Biology in Practice 8.1 (2012): 13-22.
  3. Hunter, Luke. Carnivores of the world. Vol. 117. Princeton University Press, 2019.
  4. Vanderhaar, Jana M., and Yeen Ten Hwang. “Mellivora capensis.” Mammalian Species 2003.721 (2003): 1-8.
  5. Rosevear, Donovan Reginald, et al. The carnivores of west Africa. 1974.
  6. Bright, Paul W. “Lessons from lean beasts: conservation biology of the mustelids.” Mammal Review 30.3‐4 (2000): 217-226.
  7. Dean, W. R. J., W. Roy Siegfried, and I. A. W. MacDonald. “The fallacy, fact, and fate of guiding behavior in the greater honeyguide.” Conservation Biology 4.1 (1990): 99-101.
  8. Fincham, John E., Richard Peek, and Miles Markus. “The Greater Honeyguide: Reciprocal signalling and innate recognition of a Honey Badger.” Biodiversity Observations 8 (2017): 12-1.
  9. Macdonald, I. “The honeyguide and the honey-badger: a persistent African fairy tale.” Africa–Environment & Wildlife 2.4 (1994): 13.
  10. Yong, Ed (21, July 2016). “How To Summon The Bird That Guides You To Honey” The Atlantic Monthly Group. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  11.  Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem by PBS’s Nature TV series (2014) – https://youtu.be/c36UNSoJenI
  12. Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). “Order Carnivora”. In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). “Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference” (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 612.

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