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.

(1) Asian Badger (Meles leucurus)

Photo by Zoosnow

The Asian badger is the smallest of the three Meles species, and also known as the sand badger. It is superficially very similar looking to the European badger, with stocky limbs used for digging and a bulkier body compared to sleeker members of the mustelid family. However, they exhibit an overall lighter colouration and differences in the facial markings, with the facial stripes going over the ears instead of joining up with the ear like the European badger. 

The Asian badger is found ranging through areas of eastern Europe and Asia; being found in temperate regions such as forests, but they can also be found in mountainous regions, semi-deserts and tundra habitats. 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.

Asian badgers are thought to have similar life expectancy to the European badger, averaging around 5 to 8 years with some individuals reaching up to 15 years in more exceptional cases.
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. Thankfully however their population numbers do not appear to have been affected too detrimentally by this.

Appearance

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

(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) 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 badger species above.

(4) American Badger (Taxidea taxus) – Genus Taxidea

Photo by Yathin S Krishnappa

The American badger is a stocky mustelid known for their intimidating defensive displays and fearlessness, but also for their secretive nature. 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. 

This species can be found across North America, ranging from northern Mexico, through the United States and up into south central Canada. Their habitat of choice are mainly open prairies where sandy soils make it easier to dig burrows and dig out their prey, which consists of small burrowing animals such as ground squirrels, rats, gophers and other small animals. These badgers can also be found supplementing their diets with plant foods such as corn, green beans and mushrooms.

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

Appearance

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.(1)(2)(3)

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
References

(5) Hog Badger (Arctonyx collaris) – Genus Arctonyx

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.

(6) Honey Badger / Ratel (Mellivora capensis) – Genus Mellivora

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 Media

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
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

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