Part 2. The Badger …From the corner of my eye I notice movement across the brook. The grasshopper leaps to safety while I raise my eyes to see a badger not 30 feet away on the opposite stream bank. Even though badgers are thought of as nocturnal, I am not surprised to see a badger actively going about its business in the daytime. Although their habitat is described as plains, prairies, and open farmland, neither am I surprised to see this specimen in these open woods. This badger looks healthy, with a thick, shaggy, gray coat. Its face is black, with a white stripe running from the nose over the head to the neck. The cheeks are white and a black patch is in front of each ear.
The badger seems completely indifferent to my presence. Yet I’m sure it is aware of me since I am a rather large moving object. Male badgers are larger than females but this is a moderate sized badger that I would guess to be around two feet long. Otherwise, males and females look alike so I have no idea as to the gender of this one. It is moving steadily and, for a badger, rapidly (a slow walk for me) downstream along a deer trail.
The animal detours a few feet away from the creek to sniff around a big rock. Apparently finding nothing interesting, the creature continues downstream at its slow pace. About fifty yards downstream the mouth of a wide canyon on the badger’s side of the creek comes into view. For a hundred yards up the canyon, sagebrush, grass and wildflowers clothe the floor, with aspen sprinkled here and there. Beyond this, the canyon bed and slopes sustain a forest of pine and fir.
I know that a moderately–sized Belding ground squirrel town extends up the canyon for fifty yards. Belding ground squirrels are eight to nine inches long. They are a buffy gray color with a distinctive broad brown streak down the back. The tail is two or three inches long with a black tip. These rodents are loosely colonial and dig their burrows some distance apart. Even so, I would guess fifty or more are living in the mouth of the side canyon.
As we approach the squirrel colony, the badger shows no indication that it is going to try for a surprise entry into the squirrel town. I lag behind so that I won’t startle the squirrels before the badger gets its chance. Still, being much taller than the badger, I can see over the low edge of the side canyon and note three or four squirrels in view. They see me but since I am a good distance away, they show no great concern.
When the badger rounds the corner, there is bedlam among the squirrels. Alarm calls sound and in the blink of an eye the rodents all disappear into their burrows. In a few seconds two or three squirrels briefly reappear, sitting up to look around for the danger. The badger stops, raises its head as if to sniff the air. Then off it goes to the nearest burrow only a few yards away where it begins to dig in a fashion that must be seen to be believed. The animal’s whole body is involved, with much dirt being thrown several feet to the rear. In moments all that is visible of the badger is its tail and hind legs…to be continued.