North American badgers (Taxidea taxus) are large members of the weasel family. They can be found throughout the grassland regions of North America, yet they are quite rare in British Columbia as they rely on dry interior grasslands and open forests, which are rare and limited to the Thompson, Okanagan, Cariboo and east Kootenay regions. It is estimated that only about 300 individuals live in these regions altogether, which is the reason that badgers were placed on the list of endangered species in Canada.
Badgers play several important roles in grassland ecosystems. As they are the only true fossorial carnivore in Canada, they help regulate fossorial and semi-fossorial rodent populations in grasslands. Powerful forearms and long claws facilitate successful digging for prey and digging burrows for thermal and reproductive cover. Several owl and snake species use badger’s burrow as nesting sites or thermal cover.
However, badger habitat is more and more threatened because of human activities that provoke a loss of grassland habitats. Such activities may include urban encroachment, fire suppression, and increased intensity of agriculture. Furthermore, a substantial source of mortality may be collisions with vehicles on roadways.
Current conservation efforts have been difficult to establish as very little information about the ecology of badgers throughout BC was available. Former research projects stated alarming results concerning badgers and this project wants to investigate those issues. The project’s objectives included gathering existing data and working out distribution maps for getting an overview about preferred habitat in order to develop management guidelines. Furthermore, public awareness was to be raised.
During the study period, which lasted from 1999 to 2003, 566 records of badgers were documented over a total area of 41.000 square kilometres. The Okanagan valley is home to a relatively vast amount of badgers as it serves as a historic corridor between Thompson/Cariboo and the Great Basin.
In total, 13 badgers (11 male, 2 female) were radio-tagged and monitored between 1999 and 2002. Habitat area/condition and movement data were collected and evaluated. Home range for male badgers were measured to be twice the area as female’s. Transportation corridors were the main cause of death for the badgers that were tracked, as 7 of 13 animals died on roadways or railways.
Badgers appeared to choose their habitat on the basis of soil features (silty soils with low coarse fragment contents and preferably high prey availability).
In order to educate the local public, forums and media were used; specific target groups were built that informed about badger ecology and conservation. The goal was to raise awareness of the existence, general ecology, and conservation needs of badgers in BC.
Conservation strategies in the Thompson and Okanagan region aim on reducing mortality, providing foraging and burrowing habitats as well as developing translocation protocols for badgers at risk.
- Source Richard D. Weir, Helen Davis, Corinna Hoodicoff. November 2003. Final Report for the Thompson-Okanagan Badger Project. Prepared by Artemis Wildlife Consultants, for North American Badgers in the Thompson & Okanagan Regions. Available at : http://www.badgers.bc.ca/TOB/Final_report.pdf [Accessed 03/2021].