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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ever elusive

Yesterday, while I was driving along the road (on Bodega Head) I noticed an animal in the distance that I couldn't quite identify at first.  I slowed down and then realized what it was.  A badger!  

I stopped the car right away and pulled over.  But the badger turned around and disappeared into the shrubs.  I didn't want to disturb it, but I was interested in seeing if it would come into view again.  There were dense shrubs along the side of the road, but open grassland just beyond the shrubs.  I wondered if the badger would head back to the grassland, so I decided to walk a wide arc around the shrubs for a better view of the grassland.  From a distance, I scanned with binoculars, but I didn't have any luck spotting the badger again.  The ever elusive badger!

While walking back to the car among the shrubs, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a large pile of dark soil.  I thought it might be badger diggings from a previous day, but it could have been something else, so I decided to take a quick look to confirm.  I walked up to it and noticed that it looked very moist and newly excavated.  And then I was surprised to see just a little bit of soil shift at the burrow entrance!  It wasn't my imagination, the soil moved!

The badger was probably down inside that burrow at that very moment.  Amazing.  Later I learned that badgers will dig burrows for all sorts of reasons that we usually think of, such as for shelter and foraging, but also for escape, and that's what I was probably seeing.  [I read that Joseph Grinnell reported that badgers can dig these escape burrows in under 2 minutes!]  

Unfortunately, it's likely that the badger was escaping from me...or at least the circumstance of being frightened or disturbed when my car approached it along the road.  I took a couple of quick pictures (below) and then left the area.

I encountered this newly dug badger burrow by accident.  But if I had known the badger was in the burrow at the time, I wouldn't have approached it so closely.  American Badgers are rare in California and so care should be taken not to disturb them.

P.S.  In April 2012 I posted a few other examples of badger diggings and one of the only badger photos I've taken you can review that post here.

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