A grim reality for the American Badger.

Photo: Yathin, flickr creative commons.

Photo: Yathin, flickr creative commons.

One of Canada’s most endangered species is the American Badger (Taxidea taxus), and it needs your help.

With less than 200 badgers left in Ontario and 350 in British Columbia, it is fair to say that these burrowing animals are facing hard times.

In addition to Ontario and B.C., the badger can be found in all of the Prairie provinces. Counting these primarily nocturnal and shy badgers proves to be difficult, making it hard to say how many badgers are in Canada.

That's s why it's so important to report badgers when you see them. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry works to protect Ontario’s rich biodiversity and tracks species at risk. The Natural Heritage Information Centre has an online form to report sightings of endangered species like the American Badger.

You don't have to report just the live ones - sightings of road-killed badgers or burrows are very important, too. Any information that can be gathered about these sneaky creatures helps tremendously, even if it is just to confirm the presence of badgers in the area. The Ontario Badgers website has an email and phone number to report sightings. Additionally, Badgers in B.C. is on the look out for any badger information. Sightings can be reported at this link.

Identifying a badger can be quite simple, as long as you know what you are looking for. Badgers are part of the weasel family- they're short and stocky. They are about the size of a large raccoon, and are usually grey with black and white stripes on their face with a white patch from their nose down to their neck. Some animals such as groundhogs, opossums, raccoons and skunks can be mistaken for badgers.

Badgers are carnivores and the only true burrowing predator in Canada. They mainly eat smaller burrowing mammals such as chipmunks, pocket gophers and ground squirrels, but they can also be found feasting on frogs, eggs and insects. Badgers play an important role in controlling burrowing rodent populations.

These mischievous creatures help out other creatures when they abandon their burrows, creating homes for other rare species such as gopher snakes, rattlesnakes and the endangered burrowing owl.

Burrows are extremely important for the survival of badgers as they are used for raising young, hunting, daytime resting, winter sleeping and food storage. A single badger can use hundreds of different burrows within a 500 square kilometre radius.

A badger burrow can be difficult to identify, but there are some ways to distinguish them. They are generally found at the edge of a habitat such as a forest meeting a field and are about 10 inches wide. Claw marks on the inside walls of the hole make them easier to spot. The Ontario Badgers website has a very detailed photo essay of the different burrow types and how to identify them.

A full-grown badger is at the top of the food chain,making human activity their biggest threat. Habitat loss and car collisions have almost wiped out the species.

There's good news though! Landowners can help by using fences that allow wildlife to pass through. We can also limit recreational vehicle use on delicate grasslands and learn to tolerate ground squirrels, which are the main food source for badgers. If a badger den is found on your land, you may qualify for stewardship programs that support the protection of their habitats.

If you have farmland, you can help these badgers by cutting and mowing less often, and leaving wider edges next to non-farmed land. In the early 1900s, farmers killed many badgers because they feared for their livestock; however, farmers are now becoming more tolerant, creating hope for this endangered species.

With a little bit of effort on our end, it is possible for badgers and humans to live alongside each other. Since our urban and agricultural development that has been the leading cause of the badger population decrease, we've got an obligation to see that these unique animals in flourishing habitats for generations to come.