15
Mar

Are There Badgers in Florida?

Florida is known for its beautiful beaches, amusement parks, and warm, sunny climate. But not everyone who visits Florida comes for any of the reasons above. Some tourists go there for the adventure and the vast wildlife that Florida also has to offer. One fascinating mammal to see is the badger.

But are there badgers in Florida?

What is a Badger?

Badgers are small, burrowing, solitary, nocturnal mammals. They have strong, broad feet with heavy claws, which they use to dig out their dens underground and to find food. Badgers are related to minks, weasels, wolverines and ferrets.

What’s interesting about the badgers is that their scientific classification is so complex that it’s always in constant revision. Up to now, scientists are still debating and couldn’t agree on how they can consider animals as “true badgers.” Although there are eight known species of badgers all over the world, scientists only agree on three species as true badgers: the Asian hog badgers, the Eurasian badgers, and the North American badgers.

True Badgers Versus Honey Badgers

Some people get confused with the term badgers, thinking all badgers are or look the same. Honey badgers are only called badgers because of their physical resemblance to Eurasian badgers. They are not true badgers, not even closely related.

Honey badgers are more related to weasels and somehow to skunks, having similar defense mechanisms. When threatened, Honey badgers can drop a stink bomb to shoo their predators away.

American Badgers

Back to the question, are there badgers in Florida? The answer is a resounding yes. American badgers found in Florida are also known as New World badgers. The term New World is coined for animals that are exclusively found in the whole American continent. Sadly, American badgers are hunted because of their pelts. They are now considered as protected, or species of special concern.

Unlike their Eurasian cousins who live in groups and are known as the friendliest badger species, American badgers are aggressive, generally solitary and only look for other badgers during their mating season. They communicate with other American badgers through chemical signals, using scent, especially during the mating season.

Badgers in Florida

Although Wisconsin is the one known as the “badger state” since 1957, you can actually see them anywhere in the US, including Florida. If you are lucky enough, you might even see a badger hunting its prey in the wild with a coyote, a mutualistic relationship that amazes even the scientists. If you want to see other species from the badger family, you can check out Florida zoos and wildlife tours available in the state.

The Fearless American Badgers

They are known to be one of the most fearless creatures in the wild. They seem to be built for defense, having thick, loose skin and muscular necks. When threatened, they hiss and growl, and use their long claws to slash their enemies. Even bigger predators like lions and tigers’ powerful teeth and jaws cannot easily penetrate the badger’s thick skin.

Badgers usually survive in the wild for around 4 to 5 years. The oldest badger is known to live an amazing 14 years of life, but it was not clear if it was in the wild or in captivity.

American Badger’s Diet

American badgers are powerful carnivores and expert diggers. Using their strong limbs and long claws, they prey on rodents like vole, mice, moles, prairie dogs, gophers, squirrels, etc.

They are known to be intelligent hunters, rapidly digging to hunt their prey. Because they also love hunting burrowing animals like them, they have developed a hunting strategy where they block other burrow holes to trap their prey on a dead end. They usually use this strategy for hunting squirrels, blocking all possible escape routes with wood, rocks, or dirt. Badgers also eat nesting birds, snakes, fish, insects and mostly anything they can get on.

American Badger’s Habitat

American badgers, being nocturnal, spend their day sleeping inside their burrows which they usually dug the night before. Although they can live anywhere with food resources and where they can dig for shelter, American badgers prefer open areas like grasslands, parklands or farms. American badgers can also be found in marshes, meadows, forest glades, and even hot deserts.

They can dig a hole of up to 10 square kilometers or 4 square miles. Badgers don’t just sleep on the barren soil inside their burrows. They build nest-like beddings from grasses and leaves. Their burrows, called setts, can have a network of tunnels expanding up to 300 meters, with several entrances that can even reach up to 40 openings.

Badgers also undergo hibernation during the winter season, accumulating large amounts of body fat during summer and autumn time to survive the fast. They usually sleep for several days or up to weeks during this period.

American Badgers During Mating Season

Badger’s mating season happens from late summer to early autumn, the same time they accumulate body fats in preparation for hibernation. Female badgers become sexually mature at four months, while male badgers have to wait until their second year to be ready for mating. Badgers can have multiple partners because they do not form pair bonds like other animals. After mating, male badgers move on and go back to being solitary animals.

Because their mating season is close to their hibernation period, fertilized egg implantation is delayed up to six months after mating. But after implantation, it will only take six weeks before a female badger gives birth. They can produce up to five cubs per pregnancy. Since they are left for themselves, female badgers raise all their cubs alone.

Badger cubs are born helpless, only able to open their eyes a month after birth. When cubs reach 12 weeks old, they begin to scatter to find their territory and live solitary lives.

Threats to the Badger Population

Humans will always find ways to make a living. And this will not stop them from hunting badgers for their durable, thick skin and fur. Their skin makes for durable leather used to make coats, bags, etc., while their furs are used to make premium shaving brushes, fur coats and other fur clothing. Likewise, badger pelts are known to be one of the most expensive pelts in the world.

The other reason for their decreasing population is due to loss of habitat from agriculture and urbanization. Hunting prairie dogs also affects their population decline because they are one of the badger’s primary food sources.

 Learn More About Wild Animals That Live in Florida

If you want to know more about the wild animals that live in Florida, join our tours at Swamp Fever Airboat Adventures. We have professional and passionate tour guides that will take you to the best and most fascinating areas!