On previous programs, we’ve talked about some of the unique animals that you may come across during your visit to the parks. Another animal that you may come across is the badger. Although quite rare, we do sometimes discover evidence of their presence in the parks.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons for their rarity is due to the fact that our American Badger populations Sonoma County and California as a whole have been impacted for many years. In fact they have been listed as a species of special interest or concern since 1987, and a number of conservationists believe that they should be listed as threatened. Unlike European or Eurasian Badgers, which are omnivorous, the American Badger is carnivorous and although they don’t have very good vision, their sense of smell and hearing are acute. Their long claws are the hallmark of their foraging behavior in gopher, vole and mouse holes as they search for their prey. While hiking through a park, you may find a series of large, dug-out holes which can often be mistaken for burrows, but often this is the result of their search. When they do make a burrow out of an existing hole, these nocturnal animals may use it for a day or for weeks at a time if they have enough prey to sustain them. Badgers generally adhere to specific home ranges, and some populations have been observed to be in the same area for generations.
Contrary to legends of their ferocious behavior, they are normally shy and elusive animals that tend to avoid human interaction, although they will become defensive if they feel that they are threatened, especially if it is a female protecting her young. These are born blind for the first six weeks of their lives, so during the early spring a badger sighting during the day may represent a female hunting for her offspring, which she’ll then stay with during the night. Badgers are in fact a benefit to us in many ways, not only to our local ecosystem in keeping gopher, vole and mouse populations in check - they can also benefit your garden for the same reason, and are typically not interested in your pets.
As a friendly reminder, although badgers generally avoid interactions with cats and dogs, one of the reasons that we have a leash law within your Regional Parks is to protect both your pet and the wildlife that exists in our natural environment to minimize a negative interaction. And if you do see a badger, we simply ask that you keep your distance and to enjoy and treasure the rarity of your sighting.
To find out more about your local wildlife, along with other ways to enjoy your Regional Parks, visit sonomacountyparks.org.