The Cariboo Badger Project

Badgers are carnivorous mammals that live in the grasslands and dry forests of the interior of British Columbia. Even though we live with badgers, not many people are fortunate enough to see one because badgers generally move around at night and are secretive by nature. In 2003, the Cariboo Badger Project was initiated to learn more about these elusive and endangered animals in the Cariboo Region of BC.

      Badger

Badger

Appearance

Badgers are among the largest members of the weasel family. Flattened body, black and white face, white stripe on top of head, long front claws, coarse gray-yellow fur. Lower legs are black.

Food Source

Primarily Columbian ground squirrels (gophers) and marmots – other items include small rodents, birds, fish, insects and some berries. Many landowners consider badgers beneficial by reducing rodent populations, such as ground squirrels.

      Badger Burrow

Badger burrow

Habitat Preference

Grasslands and dry open forests associated with suitable soils for digging burrows are ideal. Badgers are often seen near roads, ranches or in recent cutblocks. Badgers can dig up to a meter per minute in pursuit of prey or escaping predators!

What Do Burrows Look Like?

Badger burrows are oval in shape and about 30 cm in diameter with a large fan of excavated dirt at the entrance. Fox and coyote dens are taller than they are wide, while marmot and ground squirrel burrows are smaller & more round. The amount of dirt excavated is vari-able and is not a good indicator of which species dug the burrow. Claw marks may be parallel to the ground.

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How the Research is Done     

      Badger Trap

Badger Trap

Badgers are live trapped and im-planted with a radio-transmitter. The badger is then returned to its burrow. It can then be tracked using a radio-telemetry receiver. This can be done from an aircraft or on the ground directly to their burrow. Information about movement patterns, home range size, habitat type, birth rates and causes of death can be documented.

Previous DNA hair-snagging techniques in the Cariboo have determined that home ranges for females averaged 32 km² while males averaged 358 km² – that’s 3-100 times larger than in other studies in the USA.

Loss of habitat and prey, declining populations, and high mortality from roadkill and human persecution are the causes for their endangered status in BC.

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What We Have Learned     

      Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied marmots are important
food items for badgers in the Cariboo.

  • To date, 20 badgers have been killed on roads in the study area since 2003.
  • The largest home range documented by DNA profiling was a male who ranges over 1280 km².
  • Since 2007, 16 badgers – 11 females and 5 males, have been radio-tagged. 6 study animals have died, all from roadkill.
  • In search for food and mates, badgers can use hundreds of burrows within their home range. Many burrows are re-used.
  • Badgers use a variety of habitats, including grasslands, agricultural areas, wetland edges, and forested habitats.
  • Using DNA methods, 33 badgers were estimated to be alive in 2008 (Cariboo).
  • Badgers are often found on private land and the continued stewardship of landowners is essential to the continued existence of badgers in the Cariboo and throughout BC.
  • There are less than 340 badgers estimated to be alive in British Columbia today.
  • Studies have estimated that badgers eat an average of 2.3 ground squirrels a day.
  • Badgers can swim quite well.
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Current Research     

      Badger in Culvert

Badger in Culvert

A badger uses an existing culvert to underpass
Highway 97 near 108 Mile in the Cariboo.

In 2007, the Cariboo Badger Project partnered with Ministry of Transportation to investigate the relationship between badgers and roads. Roadkill has been identified as a leading cause of mortality for badgers in BC. Research will focus on tracking badgers detailed movements to determine where and when badgers cross roads.

This information will be used in designing new highways and upgrading existing ones. Options include; installing dry culverts, drift fences, permeable concrete roadside barriers, and signage. This is the first intensive radio-telemetry study to address road mortality ever conducted in Canada.

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You can help!     

We depend on sightings of badgers to identify areas where the species still occurs. Also, roadkilled badgers provide vital information, so we need to retrieve dead badgers as soon as possible after they have been struck.

If you have recently seen a badger, fresh burrows, or a dead badger, please call:

Ministry of Environment 250-395-7853

or

1-888-223-4376 toll-free elsewhere in BC

or

Richard Klafki 250-344-1002

or

e-mail: info@badgers.bc.ca

For more information on badgers, please visit: www.badgers.bc.ca

Note: This page is taken from the brochure “Cariboo Badger Project” of the BC Badger Recovery Project and is current up to July 17, 2009