Badgers in the Buckeye state?

What creature has 34 teeth that automatically sharpen each other when its mouth opens and shuts, nictitating eyelids that protect its vision from being damaged by flying soil, uses stench from its musk glands to deter adversaries, eats rattlesnakes and is immune to their venom (unless bitten on the nose), has fur that was used in the early 20th century for men’s shaving brushes and ladies’ collars, and may presently reside on Ohio farmland? The answer is: The American Badger.

Rarely seen and largely unknown to most Ohioans, there is a viable badger population in the state, and reports of them have increased over the past couple of decades, according to Suzie Prange, state carnivore specialist, furbearer biologist, and mammalogist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. While there has been relatively little research conducted on the state’s badgers, Ohio State University graduate student Jared Duquette’s master’s thesis on Ohio badgers in 2008 helped to educate the public about Buckeye badgers and bring more attention to their presence among us.

The badger is a vigorous, burly, strong critter that is a member of the weasel family. Weighing between 12 and 24 pounds and measuring approximately two feet long, badgers have a white stripe that extends back over the head from the nose and characteristic black cheek patches, or “badges.”

Short-legged and flat to the ground, it has powerful feet and claws that it uses for digging. A burrowing creature that is nearly as wide as it is long, the badger, as naturalist Marty Stouffer puts it, resembles a “digging doormat…it lives to dig and digs to live…Its whole existence depends on its burrowing habits. It digs for defense, shelter, food, and sometimes just for fun.”

A carnivore, the badger feeds on rodents, reptiles, rabbits, insects, ground squirrels, and worms, oftentimes digging its prey up with its powerful front legs and feet. Due to their size and depth, badger holes can be dangerous if stepped in; measuring between eight inches to a foot in diameter, they further illustrate naturalist Olaus Murie’s observation that the critter is a “flattened digging dynamo.”

Badgers are not native to Ohio and the first reports of them here did not occur until the late 1800s. Duquette says that there has been a range increase of 17% from the badger’s historical range and that Ohio is the “presumed eastern extent of their distribution.”

Duquette’s research suggests that the conversion of Ohio’s forests to agriculture after settlement helped them to extend their territory. Duquette says that agricultural development “may have additionally provided badgers increased habitat and travel corridors allowing for potential population expansion.”

Badgers are primarily a plains country creature, preferring prairies and grassland habitats. Ohio badger den sites are “frequently located in or contiguous to agricultural habitat,” Duquette said, adding “Ohio badgers used wetland associated habitat” as well.

Due to their preference for open grasslands, in Ohio, badger numbers are generally concentrated in the northwest and west-central sections of the state. Duquette’s research indicates that the core areas of distribution are centered in the state’s historical prairie regions and that 99% of recorded badger observations were above the state’s glacial line.

Suzie Prange gets most of her data on badger numbers from road kill reports and images captured on trail cameras. She receives approximately a half dozen road kill badger carcasses a year and said that over the past year or so, she has confirmed badger sightings/road kills from Williams, Defiance, Henry, Hardin, and Logan counties, as well as one from Portage county in northeast Ohio.

While Prange says that the animal is listed as a “species of concern” and its population numbers are low in the state, badgers appear to have found niches in various locations in northwestern Ohio.

“They are doing OK and are holding their own,” Prange said. “There are established, reproducing badgers in Ohio; they’re not just passing through.”

Badgers have a reputation for being belligerent, irritable, and fierce. Of course, to “badger” someone, in the American vernacular, means to tease, bully, or bother. And while a badger may bully other animals away from a food cache, they are often mischaracterized.

“They get a bad rap about their ‘badger attitude.’ They’re definitely aggressive if trapped or cornered, but they’re not going to actively pursue a person,” Prange said.

Badgers are dangerous when provoked, but they would rather dig to safety than fight. As an illustration of its great strength and its true disposition, Olaus Murie offers the following anecdote: “Once a badger started to dig into the ground to escape, I seized it by the hind legs and tried to pull it out of the hole as the hind quarters were disappearing, just to have another look at it and to see what it would do. But the badger held fast. I felt as if I was trying to pull out a big plant by the roots. In a few moments I noticed the muzzle coming out, doubling back under the belly, reaching for my hands. I promptly let go and watched it disappear into the ground!”

Photo by ODNR.

Photo by ODNR.

Prange does not foresee badgers being an issue for Ohio’s agricultural community and has not received any reports about livestock predation or nuisance badgers.

“No one seems to get worked up about badgers,” she said, “They’re not fast-moving predators that are going to jump on the back of a sheep. Maybe they would get into a chicken coop — like anything else — I mean, what wouldn’t get into a chicken coop?”

If a landowner does find evidence of a badger on his property, Prange said it is best to just let it be.

“Leave it alone and if it’s not in a place where it is going bother them, their pets, or their livestock, leave it be and call your local wildlife officer to report the sighting. If it becomes a problem, hire a trapper to remove it,” she said.

The badger offers diversity to the Ohio landscape. A carnivore with a hearty appetite for small mammals, it plays a predatory role in the prairie country ecosystems in which it is found. The persistent existence of this grasslands weasel in the Buckeye state is a testament to the adaptability and attitude of this fascinating animal.

 

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30 thoughts on “Badgers in the Buckeye state?”

  1. I also live in portage county in Mantua and have seen a badger while out hunting 3 years ago

  2. We have spotted a badger on our farm which is located on the Shelby County/Logan County line.
    Thanks

    • Could you tell me if you saw the badger in a wooded area or was it in a field? Thanks!

  3. Saw a badger in the yard of a vacant house yesterday, in Belmont County, while I was out walking my cat.

  4. I live across the street from the Stillwater River in Downtown Dayton, and I have footage of a badger on my surveillance cameras.

  5. I have a badger living under my deck. This isn’t going to work. Any suggestions for deterring it?

    • Hi, I’m curious … Did you get the badger out from underneath the deck?

  6. Saw one in rural area outside Cambridge yesterday.

  7. Wadsworth, Medina county. We live in front of a soy bean field, so you can imagine, there is a lot of ground hogs on our property. I was about 20 yards pushing a mower when I saw it come out of it’s oversized ground hog den. I stop to walk towards it.. It advanced towards me a few feet. Definitely not a ground hog.

    • Hello Justin, my name is Scott Reis and I was looking up some information online about badgers in Ohio and I saw your text from October of 2015 about the badger you saw on your property in Wadsworth. I also saw that you mentioned you have a lot of groundhogs on your property and I wanted to know if you’d be open to me hunting them from time to time? Thank you, Scott Reis, sreis777@icloud.com June 19, 2017

  8. Just caught one on our trail cam inNorthwest Ohio/Defiance County

  9. I am a retired naturalist and would like to hear of any badger sitings in the Allen, Hardin, and Auglaize County areas. Thanks!

  10. I am sure that was what was growling at me on a trail at Kiser Lake when I was riding my horse about 5 years ago . I have been around alot of wildlife and never heard one growl like that for so long . It was behind brush so I never saw it .

  11. Saw a badger early this morning on my property in southwestern Union county.

    • Have you had any more badger sightings?

  12. I recovered a badger on the side of the road at 71s and 270w north dside of Columbus. This was in 2002. I took it to ODNR in Columbus. It is my understanding that the interstate highways are prime environment for them. This is how they are populating Ohio again.

  13. I saw one 25 years ago on my grandfather’s property at the edges of a field, sheep pasture, and wooded area with a pond in northern Crawford County.

  14. Back in ’09 I found one that was roadkill off of I-75 in the southbound berm near Botkins on-ramp. At first I thought I was mistaken and when traveling north later that day I looked again and verified it that night with my computer based on the markings. Next day I contacted ODNR after traveling to work and they had someone come and retrieve it for vital statistics with OSU research studies. That would place it in Northern Shelby County.

  15. I live in Fulton county Ohio and fit your information, I was sitting on my front lawn listening to music and minding my own business when I notice my dog looking around fast, I looked over and there was this badger coming at me very aggressively… if it wasn’t for my dog I could have been killed or hurt!!! My dog picked it up and threw it, giving me time to get up AND move along!!!! I’m not mean but if he comes back this way I have my shot gun ready… I have a child to protect!!!!

  16. i found one dead in the middle of the roar adjacent to the west branch of the Black river in Elyria, oh., July 25, 2016

  17. If anyone sees a badger or needs help with them, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I have experience with these animals and am a wildlife rehabilitator.

    • Carrie, I would like very much to talk with you about your badger experiences since we live in the Hocking Hills are just outside of Sugar Grove and my neighbor believes we have one living nearby. Our first clue was the unusual, but skunk-like, odor that seemed to move around. Later my german shepard got such a dose that I had to de-skunk him before he could come back in the house.
      Since this is hardly a cropland area, I’m curious about the possibility that they are expanding their range into woodlands. We have a large population of field mice, chipmunks, etc. for them to feed on, so it isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
      No one wishes to harm this critter, but we are curious about co-existing with it (See german shepard comment above.) My email is included here, but feel free to call or text also. My cell number is 614-588-2800. Home number is 740-746-2114 land line so no text there. Hope to hear from you soon…..Jerry

  18. A family friend caught one in his trap back in the late 70s. It was caught in Warren County.

  19. Notice a few weeks ago that something was digging up the yard on are property. Figured it was a skunk. Was down there today and it looked like it plowed the yard up. Was Checking my trail camera and got a picture of a badger. Cazy!!!

  20. Just saw a badger behind our barn outside of casstown Ohio Miami county and we had one chicken killed this week I think we have our suspect

  21. Around 40 yrs ago (when I.was 16) I was in the woods (along thee RxR tracks in Fulton Co. (Delta,Ohio),….(by deadmans cave)……….trussel half filled in) one came within 50 ft. Of me….scared the living dickins out of me,,,,,,,,(first time I researched this) NOW I know that Ohio DOES have Badgers.

  22. I saw a badger early morning 8-8-17 in Williams County. Two mile south of West Unity.

  23. Far SE Madison Co. Pretty sure a badger just ran across my back stoop, & I’m NOT in the country. Inside village limits. 12:15am. Will look for further signs tomorrow.

  24. Just saw a badger in country outside of Rawson in Hancock County. It was coming out of the corn field and crossing the road toward a grassy wet land and prairie conservation area.

  25. Pingback: Big cats, badgers and coy wolves: Will a snowy winter offer wildlife tracking opportunities? | Ohio Ag Net | Ohio's Country Journal

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