Wild Woman: Badgers in Arkansas

Wild Woman Kirsten Barlow is a watchable wildlife coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. She was on Arkansas Today to tell us more about badgers in Arkansas.

Known for being a feisty and fierce predator, badgers are not a common sight in Arkansas and were first recorded in the Natural State in 1964.

Do we have badgers in Arkansas?

Badgers are uncommon in Arkansas and as far as we know only occur in the NW and NE Arkansas and little in between. Reports of them along Crowley’s Ridge and in Marion County have been increasing in recent years and they may be expanding in this part of the state. They likely made their way into the state from MO, KS and OK. AGFC is looking for photos or videos of badgers seen in Arkansas. Contact Blake Sasse at blake.sasse@agfc.ar.gov

What do they look like?

They are stocky and low-slung with short, powerful legs and long claws on their front feet. They weigh around 10 to 25 pounds. The fur on their back is grayish to brownish—they have a grizzled appearance like a groundhog. However, their face is quite distinct—it has black patches and the throat and chin are whitish. A white stripe runs from their nose and over their head.

What habitat do they prefer?

Well known as powerful diggers, they prefer open country with loose, sandy soil where the digging is easy. They avoid heavily wooded areas and rocky soil. Badgers range from the Great Lakes states west to Pacific Coast, and from Canadian Prairie Provinces, south to the Mexican Plateau.

What do they eat?

They are mainly carnivorous and dig after and feed on woodchucks, pocket gophers, and other rodents. They also eat rabbits, bird eggs and nestlings, snakes, lizards and insects. They can easily outdig ground-dwelling rodents. Badgers and coyotes have been spotted hunting together. Coyotes take advantage of rodents escaping from burrows being excavated by badgers, and badgers take advantage of rodents escaping from coyote foraging by scurrying into burrows.

Are they beneficial to have around?

Ranchers are not always fans of the burrows badgers dig as the openings can cause leg injuries to livestock. However, their ability to reduce rodent numbers may make up for this. When cornered, they will either burrow out of sight or put on a show by hissing loudly and false charging. Badgers are rather fierce and have few natural predators in Arkansas other than humans.

Why do they burrow?

They dig burrows both in search of prey and for shelter. Badgers have a third eyelid that protects their eyes from all the flying soil, and thick guard hairs in their nostrils and ears to keep them clear of debris. They are not true hibernators but during severe winter weather, they will sleep for long periods of time. They also raise their young in their burrows.'

 

Fun Fact: In the 1890s, the University of Wisconsin-Madison football team began using live badger as a mascot. However, it escaped its cage on numerous occasions, terrorized students and had to be retired to the Madison Zoo.

 


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