Nature Bulletin No. 180-A February 20, 1965
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Seymour Simon, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation
One of the largest of the weasel tribe, which includes the skunks,
mink, otters, martens and wolverine, is the Badger. It is much
different from the others. Like the mole, it is a digger built for
digging; squat heavy muscular body, short neck, and short powerful
legs with large strong claws which are more than one inch long on its
big forefeet. Its small flat broad head, with low rounded ears and white
cheeks with a black bar in front of each ear, is featured by a narrow
white stripe that runs, from the sharp-pointed nose, back over the
forehead to shoulders.
It has a very short bushy tail and its long shaggy fur is grizzled
yellowish-gray, parted in the middle along the back and hanging down
almost to the ground. A badger, 27 to 29 inches long including a 5-
inch tail, is so low, flat, broad and shaggy that, when running, he
reminds you of a galloping doormat.
occur in North America from Indiana to the Pacific Coast and
from central Canada south to Texas. Wisconsin is known as the
"Badger State", some say, because Wisconsin pioneers working in the
lead mines north of Galena, commonly lived in hillside caves
resembling badger burrows. Now rare, the animal was once common
there and in the north half of Illinois. It prefers the plains inhabited by
prairie dogs, and the grasslands or open forests where ground
squirrels, gophers and field mice are plentiful. They also eat some
insects, snails, turtle eggs, young rabbits, and occasionally the eggs or
young of ground-nesting birds.
They excavate and live in deep long burrows. In cold northern regions
they hibernate. They are most active at night when they industriously
dig for rodents, leaving numerous large holes into which a horse may
stumble and break its leg. One naturalist came upon a badger leisurely
digging out a ground squirrel. Immediately, accompanied by a furious
snarling and rumbling, a continuous geyser of earth shot out of the
hole and in a short time the badger was deep below the surface.
Shy and sly, the badger becomes a vicious formidable fighter if
surprised away from its den and given no chance to dig. Blows that
would kill most animals seem not to affect him, probably because of
his heavy fur, tough skin, and compact muscular build. This
fierceness, stubbornness and remarkable endurance led to the cruel
"sport" of badger-baiting, formerly practiced in England and some of
our western states, where a badger would be placed in a barrel lying on
its side and relays of dogs sent in to try to drag him out. From this
came our expression: "to badger", meaning to tease, harass and worry.
Apparently a pair of badgers, once mated, stay paired a long time.
They have from 2 to 5 young in a litter, late in the spring. They are
probably able to avoid the only animals, such as lynx and wolves,
powerful enough to prey on them. Man is their chief enemy, although
they are cunning enough to be difficult to trap. The long coarse hairs
of their fur, tipped with silvery white above a narrow black band, make
excellent brushes, especially artists' brushes and those used in shaving.
The fur was formerly considered useless otherwise, but after World
War I badger pelts from the northern and mountainous regions, where
the fur is more dense and silky, came to be worth as much as $50 each.
As a result, the badger has been so greatly reduced in numbers as to be
in danger of extinction. Used principally for linings in women's cloth
coats, a more important use of the fur is in "pointing" other kinds of
fur-- a skillful process whereby the long silvery badger hairs are glued
in groups on the less desirable grades of fox, or other pelts dyed to
We also have the expression: "Gray as a badger". And another: "the
badger game" which can be a joke or a gyp.
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Update: June 2012