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Taxidea taxus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CARNIVORA MUSTELIDAE

Scientific Name: Taxidea taxus
Species Authority: (Schreber, 1777)
Common Name(s):
English American Badger
Taxonomic Notes: Four subspecies have been recognized on the basis of differences in skull size and pelage color (Long 1972): T. t. berlandieri, found in the southern United States; T. t. jacksoni, found in the north-central United States and southern Ontario in Canada; T. t. taxus, found in the Great Plains ecosystem ranging from the United States into the prairie provinces of Canada; and T. t. jeffersonii, found in western United States and southern British Columbia.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Reid, F. & Helgen, K.
Reviewer(s): Duckworth, J.W. (Small Carnivore Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Justification:
This species is listed as Least Concern as the species has large range and is relatively common over much of range, but probably has declined substantially in areas converted from grassland to intensive agriculture and where colonial rodents such as prairie dogs and ground squirrels have been reduced or eliminated. Also threatened by collisions with vehicles and by direct persecution but not at a rate sufficient to qualify for a threat category.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The species is distributed from southern Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and southern Ontario), over a majority of the northern, western and central United States, and south to Puebla and Baja California, Mexico (Wozencraft, in Wilson and Reeder 1993; Long, in Wilson and Ruff 1999).
Countries:
Native:
Canada; Mexico; United States
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Large range in the western and central U.S., southern Canada, and northern and central Mexico; relatively common over much of range, but probably has declined substantially in areas converted from grassland to intensive agriculture and where colonial rodents such as prairie dogs and groundsquirrels have been reduced or eliminated. Also threatened by collisions with vehicles and by direct persecution.

U.S. population roughly estimated to be on the order of several hundred thousand; Canadian population less than 50,000 (Newhouse and Kinley 1999). No estimates for Mexican population. In areas of abundance, can reach densities of 3-5/square kilometer (Long, in Wilson and Ruff 1999). In Canada, both T. t. jacksoni in Ontario and T. t. jeffersonii in British Columbia are recognized as endangered, with as few as 200 and 600 animals remaining, respectively (Kyle et al. 2004).

Badgers have experienced negative demographic trends throughout their northern range as a result in declining habitat suitability (Newhouse and Kinley, 2000). Population sizes for the United States are not well known, but the total American population is probably several hundred thousand animals (Newhouse and Kinley, 2000). Badgers can occur at densities up to 6 individuals/km2 (Messick and Hornocker, 1981). In Canada, the T. taxus population, according to a 1998 questionnaire, is estimated to be between 13,700 and 28,900 in Saskatchewan province and 3,000 and 5,000 in Manitoba province, providing an estimated Prairie population to between 17,700 and 43,900 animals (Scobie, 2002).

Density averages 1 per sq mile in prime open country (Long 1973). In southeastern Wyoming, density was 0.8-1.1 per sq km (Goodrich and Buskirk 1998).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Prefers open areas and may also frequent brushlands with little groundcover. When inactive, occupies underground burrow. Badgers are known to inhabit regions ranging from below sea level to elevations 3,600 m (Kyle et al., 2004). They are usually found in relative dry, grasslands and open forests (Rahme et al. 1995). Taxidea may be active at any hour but is mainly nocturnal.

Feeds primarily on small rodents usually captured by digging out burrow. Ground squirrels often major item in diet, as are pocket gophers, kangaroo rats, priairie dogs, and mice; also eats scorpions, insects, snakes, lizards, and birds, especially when ground squirrel population is low (Messick and Hornocker 1981).

Its movements are restricted, especially in winter, and it shows a strong attachment to a home area. Estimated home ranges vary from 2 to 725 ha changing seasonally (Sargeant and Warne, 1972). The badger is active all year, but it may sleep in its den for several days or weeks during severe winter weather (Nowak, 2005). Most food is obtained by excavating the burrows of fossorial rodents. Also eaten are other small mammals, birds, reptiles and arthropods.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Changing land uses, resulting from agriculture, urban development, and forest ingrowth and loss of prey appears to be the major factors negatively affecting badgers. The loss of prey is considered to be one of the primary factors limiting badger populations in British Columbia (Newhouse and Kinley, 2000). Trapping for pelts has affected badger populations, mainly in response to rising fur prices, but has not had a significant influence on badger populations in recent years. Badgers are also trapped, shot and poisoned because their diggings are thought to cause broken legs in livestock, lead to water loss from irrigation canals, and cause damage to vehicles encountering their burrows (Scobie, 2002).

Although clearing of forests for agricultural land has probably resulted in some range expansion, cultivation of grassland has undoubtedly caused declines (Soper 1964, Stardom 1979, Lindzey 1982, Messick 1987, Smith 1992, Newhouse and Kinley 1999). Likewise, intensification of agriculture is likely to cause declines in the future.

In the west, infill of formerly open woodlands and encroachment of forests into grassland as a result of effective fire suppression has eliminated or degraded much badger habitat (Newhouse and Kinley 1999).

Most mortality is caused by vehicles or deliberate killing by humans (Stardom 1979, Messick et al. 1981, Fitzgerald et al. 1994, Newhouse and Kinley 2000, Apps et al. 2002). Badgers may actually be attracted to roads, both because ground squirrels often burrow alongside them (Ketcheson and Bauer 1995), and because they are good travel routes (Warner and Ver Steeg 1995).

Badgers are trapped, shot and poisoned because their diggings are thought to cause broken legs in livestock, lead to water loss from irrigation canals, and cause damage to vehicles encountering their burrows (Scobie 2002). Declines may also be related to the persecution of their primary prey, prairie dogs and ground squirrels (Apps et al. 2002). Finley et al. (1976) speculated that some Colorado populations may have declined because of the elimination of prairie dogs.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In Canada, the species was designated as “Not At Risk”, while the two subspecies T. t. jeffersonii (British Columbia) and T. t. jacksoni (Ontario) were designated as “Endangered”(COSEWIC, 2002) with as few as 600 and 200 animals remaining, respectively (Kyle et al., 2004).

Citation: Reid, F. & Helgen, K. 2008. Taxidea taxus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 27 November 2014.
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