The benefits of badgers

If you go out in the woods today, you may be in for a big surprise.

No, it’s not bears you may find, but badgers.

Many people are surprised to hear that there are badgers in British Columbia. But if you spend time in areas around Rock Creek, Anarchist Mountain and Princeton, you may be lucky enough to see one.

Low and stocky, badgers are part of the weasel family. They live in grasslands and dry forests of the Similkameen, Okanagan, Thompson and Caribou. If left undisturbed, badgers may also use open habitats, like ski hills, clear-cuts or golf courses. Anywhere you find small prey mammals like ground squirrels, marmots and pocket gophers, you will find badgers.

Three square meals a day for an adult badger consists of about two ground squirrels. Over time that can add up to a lot of ground squirrels.

With their large appetites for rodents, badgers quickly become the sweetheart of ranchers, farmers and golf course managers. Instead of having to resort to Bill Murray’s Caddyshack antics, they can get on with the day-to-day of managing their land. The badgers take care of the pesky rodents without the use of nasty poisons or other expensive means.

Rare B.C. carnivore

Wildlife experts estimate there are less than 300 badgers living in our province. They are listed federally as endangered and red-listed in B.C., another way of saying that they are endangered or threatened.The main threats to badger existence? There are three.

First, badgers may have a bad reputation because they like to dig. They can push through a metre of soil in about a minute.

They need to make the soil fly in order to catch their prey. But it means that these diggers are mistakenly persecuted as agricultural pests, so they are often shot at or poisoned.

Second, humans have a habit of clearing forests and grasslands for housing, agricultural and other developments. Badgers may tolerate human-altered landscapes only because their prey is nearby.

Close calls with dogs, people and cars make it difficult for badgers to make a living around us though.Lastly, roads and railways are bad news for badgers. In a match between a badger and a vehicle, the badger always loses.

Badgers are most active between dusk and dawn. Add poor eyesight and that feisty weasel attitude, many badgers will stand up to an on-coming vehicle rather than run away.

How you can help

You can help these cool carnivores. Here are a few ideas.

Tell your friends and family about our unique-to-B.C. critter. Encourage people to show pride if a badger takes residence on their property. Not everyone is so lucky.

Keep pets on leashes in wilderness and semi-wilderness areas. If you know of areas where badgers have been sighted, alert your neighbours and encourage them drive carefully after dark.

If you see a badger or badger den, you are encouraged to report your sighting to the Badger Hotline 1-888-223-4376. Badger dens are low and wide, shaped like a football.

You can find out more about the status of badgers in BC by visiting www.badgers.bc.ca.

If you would like to help with conservation efforts for badgers and other species at risk, here are a few suggestions for actions you can take: donate to a local land trust; get involved with the your local naturalists club; participate in nature celebrations like the Meadowlark Festival; and volunteer on habitat restoration projects.

Submitted by Chandra Wong, Okanagan Similkimeen Conservation Alliance