Thursday, 15 January 2015

A Digging Machine

Of all the badgers, the North American badger is perhaps the most powerful and effective burrower, having been observed to not only completely disappear through hardened soil in mere minutes, but to dismantle even more challenging foundations, as related in 1939 by Mary Louise Perry:

The powerful little digger went through hard ground as well as soft. He not only played havoc with a firmly packed automobile road but even dug through the concrete of a basement floor! Whenever in the inch-thick concrete the badger found a flaw he picked out little pebbles until an opening was afforded for his claws, then jerked out sections of the concrete. He then scooped up a few handfuls of the dirt beneath it and proceeded to another flaw…..When he desired to move a big rock he wedged both muzzle and foreclaws under the rock, pried it loose, and dragged it to its destination with his powerful forelegs.[1]

Biologist Barbara Ver Steeg recounts in an interview that a single badger defeated her entire research team’s attempts at capture in the American Midwest: “We actually tried digging one out a couple times and that was a total failure.” She notes: “They’re very impressive diggers…It’s just a huge plume of dirt in the air behind them--and then they’re gone.”[2]

[1] Mary Louise Perry, ‘Notes on a Captive badger’, The Murrelet: A Journal of Northwestern Ornithology and Mammalogy 20.3 (September-December 1939), p. 51.
[2] qtd. in Heather Rigney, ‘Still at home in the Badger State’, Wisconsin Natural Resources online (December 1999) <>

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