Species at Risk
Badger Conservation in Kootenay National Park
Taxidea taxus jeffersonii
What is the American Badger?
© Parks Canada / A. Dibb
The American Badger is a nocturnal
member of the weasel family. Low-slung, with short, powerful legs and
impressive claws, this animal was "made to dig".
Its front claws are long
and stout for ploughing through soil, while its hind claws are shorter
and flattened for shovelling it away. A badger can dig itself a hole
© Parks Canada / R. Klafki
The badger has brownish or greyish fur, with a white stripe running from
its shoulder to the tip of its nose, and dark markings on its face. Males,
larger than females, weigh up to 14 kilograms.
One of four subpecies
of American Badger, Taxidea taxus jeffersonii, occurs in Canada
only in British Columbia's dry interior. Badgers are found in grasslands
and farms and yet are not strictly grassland animals as they have been
found to use forested and alpine sites in British Columbia including
Kootenay National Park of Canada.
The badger is one of Canada's few grassland carnivores.
In fact, it's the only carnivore that burrows after and eats other tunnelling
animals. So badgers help control ground squirrel, mice and vole populations,
playing an important role in grasslands ecosystems.
Badgers can use hundreds of burrows within their home range as they search for food and mates.
When badgers dig - in pursuit of prey
or to excavate a burrow-they also improve the soil conditions for various
plants. In addition to this, the large burrows they create provide shelter
to other wild animals like burrowing owls and snakes.
Yet this important wildlife species is declining in British Columbia.
The reasons include fragmentation
and loss of habitat,
a decrease in prey species, and death caused directly by human activities.
Badgers like to live in open valley bottoms - the same places humans
like to establish cities, roads, farms and orchards. Suitable badger
habitat is being lost as a result, along with prey species like ground
squirrels. And the increasing human activity-from vehicle traffic to
farming operations-means more badgers die from vehicle collisions and
even deliberate persecution as "nuisance animals."
Recent studies show that the British Columbia badger population has
dropped to fewer than 200 adults. COSEWIC
responded by listing the jeffersonii subspecies of American
badger as endangered
The key to helping any species survive is to maintain the ecosystem that
provides it with food, shelter and other life necessities. Yet the badger
has not been studied much in British Columbia, so questions remain regarding
its needs and how best to restore populations.
The East Kootenay
Badger Project, with Parks Canada as one of the partners, aims to find
the answers. Initiated in 1995, this exciting long term study of badger
and distribution in the East Kootenays, including Kootenay National
Park, is Canada's first intensive radio telemetry-based
study of badgers.
The project involves following badgers fitted with radio transmitters
and mapping their travels. Thirty-two badgers have been radio-tagged
so far, and their movements followed to determine:
- movement rates and home range size;
- patterns of habitat use and dispersal;
- birth rates and reproductive success; and
- causes of death.
The East Kootenay Badger Project also works with landowners in order
to increase the number of badgers maintained on private property. These
projects result in increased public awareness and appreciation of the
badger, their prey and the ecosystems they call home.
actions are all important components of the strategy to restore British
Columbia's American Badger populations.
Results of the East Kootenay Badger Project so far indicate that:
- Reproductive success is low, especially in the upper Columbia Valley,
- Only 50 percent of the study females have reproduced
- Twelve of the study badgers have died
- Causes of death include highway and train kills and predation by
cougars and coyotes.
Canada, Species at Risk, American Badger
Kootenay Badger Project
badger Recovery Team