The badger (Taxidea taxus) is a stocky, medium-sized mammal with a broad head, a short, thick neck, short legs, and a short, bushy tail. Its front legs are stout and muscular, and its front claws are long. It is silver-gray, had long guard hairs, a black patch on each cheek, black feet, and a characteristic white stripe extending from its nose over the top of its head. The length of this stripe down the back varies. Badgers may weigh up to 30 pounds (13.5 kg), but average about 19 pounds (8.6 kg) for males and 14 pounds (6.3 kg) for females. Eye shine at night is green.
Figure 1. Range of the badger in North America
The badger is widely distributed in the contiguous United States. Its range extends southward from the Great Lakes states to the Ohio Valley and westward through the Great Plains to the Pacific Coast, though not west of the Cascade mountain range in the Northwest (Figure 1). Badgers are found at elevations of up to 12,000 feet (3,600 m).
Badgers prefer open country with light to moderate cover, such as pastures and rangelands inhabited by burrowing rodents. They are seldom found in areas that have many trees.
Badgers are opportunists, preying on ground-nesting birds and their eggs, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Common dietary items are ground squirrels, pocket gophers, prairie dogs, and other smaller rodents. Occasionally they eat vegetable matter. Metabolism studies indicate that an average badger must eat about two ground squirrels or pocket gophers daily to maintain its weight. Badgers may occasionally kill small lambs and young domestic turkeys, parts of which they often will bury.