I’ve always thought of badgers as crabby, ill-tempered little creatures willing to consume anything in sight, including snakes. They are pugnacious little beasts, I assumed after observing a few of them in the wild. They have their place in nature, of course, but are devoid of personality, I believed, and would never display a playful side or anything resembling cuteness.
That’s what I thought until recently.
On our biology workdays, we drive slowly down a dirt road, observing wildlife and counting ungulates on the National Elk Refuge. Yesterday, I thought I saw ground squirrels cavorting out of the corner of my eye. But they were too big for ground squirrels. “Stop!” I hollered at Chuck who was driving, and we both lifted our binoculars to observe three young badgers on a dirt mound tugging at what appeared to be a large feather duster.
As we eased from our vehicle, the three young faces swung in our direction to inspect the intruders. Soon they lost interest & returned to their work. Chuck brought the scope from the car and trained it on the youngsters.
“It looks like they’re chewing on a carcass,” he said, as they continued pulling and shoving at an object lying on the mound.
The young badgers badgered the object, occasionally disappearing into their underground opening or rolling in the dirt around them before resuming their labors. Some time passed before we saw the head of the “carcass” rise from the ground to check the surroundings. “That’s the mother badger!” we exclaimed.
How patient and attentive she remained as her young continued to arouse her and play with her fur and tail. “She’s more tolerant than I would have been,” I commented.
The youngsters frolicked and pranced around their mother as she slowly rose and joined them in their explorations, revealing to us that badgers can be playful and caring, patient and gentle, all the while exhibiting a personality all their own. We now consider this another misunderstood animal, as are snakes.
Thanks to fellow-Elk Refuge volunteer Jim Crabb for providing our badger pictures!