The American Badger

American badgers are found from southwestern Canada and the north-central United States south through the western United States into central Mexico. They usually inhabit dry, open country. The badgers range in length from about 16 to about 28 inches (40 to 70 cm), not including the tail, which may be from about 4 to about 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) long. Their upper parts are grayish to reddish with a white stripe extending from the nose to the shoulders. They have black patches on the face. The underparts are buff-colored.

American badgers feed on snakes, rodents, birds, insects, and carrion. They are skillful diggers; they use their claws to dig out prey and to burrow underground to protect themselves from predators. A litter of usually three young is born in the spring.

Although the burrows they dig can cause cattle and horses to trip and fall, American badgers are generally considered helpful because they destroy injurious animals. The fur of the badgers is used for trimmings and for a fur-making process called pointing. Pointing consists of glueing badger hairs onto other pelts.

What Is the “Partnership” Between Coyotes and American Badgers?

Throughout Canada, the United States, and Mexico, people have observed an odd relationship between badgers and coyotes.

Both coyotes and badgers eat small burrowing animals, such as ground squirrels and prairie dogs. The coyote can chase the squirrels and catch them if they are running around aboveground. The badger, on the other hand, is not fast enough to catch a running ground squirrel. If the ground squirrel is hiding in its burrow, however, it may be safe from the coyote—but not from the badger. The badger can easily dig into a ground squirrel burrow.

A coyote sometimes will watch a badger as it digs for prey. While the badger digs, the prey may run out of its burrow as it tries to escape. Once out in the open, the prey becomes an easy meal for the coyote. Coyotes and badgers do not hunt together in the cooperative sense, but coyotes do benefit from the activities of badgers.