The American badger

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iStockphoto.com/oneword American-badger

The badger hates being ‘badgered’.1 On one occasion, when an American badger was brought to a football field as a mascot, it got badgered. So it started digging, went under the football field and escaped!2

Such behavior usually leaves the badger, specifically the American badger, with the image of being a nuisance. Few articles can be found showcasing them in a positive light.

Growing up

An American badger will come from a family of 1–5 (averaging three) siblings and a single mother.3 The badger’s father will have nothing to do with the young. The young badgers will leave home before they are a year old (and within a few months many will already have their own young).4

After leaving home, the badger will create his own home, called a ‘sett’, or expand an abandoned den from a different animal. The larger setts can house multiple badgers, with total length of the tunnel-and-chamber network being up to 300 metres (980 ft), with dozens of openings. The tunnels are mostly about 0.5–2 metres (1.5–6.5 feet) beneath the surface of the ground.

The American badger can grow up to 72 cm (28 in) long and weigh up to 12 kg (26 lb).5,6

A badger’s hide (its reversible!)

The American badger’s fur has an interesting feature that well suits an animal spending much of its time underground.

For most animals, their fur faces one way. When its fur brushes against something, it will smooth down going one way and bristle up when rubbed the opposite way. However, for the badger, his fur is placed so that it can switch back and forth easily. This makes it much easier to tunnel backward or forward through the ground.7

The badger’s skin and fur has another useful feature, too. When a predator confronts a badger (usually only young badgers get attacked) it will usually try to dig its way away. But, if the predator gets it in his mouth, then the badger simply does a little ‘shapeshifting’. Because the badger’s hide is very loosely connected to his body, he can get away from a predator simply by leaning away. Because the predator can only grip the sliding hide, the badger can slip away without being seriously injured.8

Claws and other hunting assets

iStockphoto.com/Kaphoto brown-badger

With a total of ten claws, each 5 cm (2 in) long, on his front legs, the badger has been labeled as the fastest digging (‘fossorial’) animal in the world. The shovel-like claws, backed by extremely strong forelegs, can throw dirt five feet in the air and can dig faster than a human with a shovel.9 An American badger has even been seen to dig through the asphalt surface of a parking lot, disappearing from view in less than two minutes!10

An average badger’s meal is comprised of small rodents ranging from mice to gophers. With its excellent hearing, sense of smell, powerful claws, speed and endurance, the American badger can easily catch its meal.11 Living predominantly in prairie regions that are suitable for digging, this meal often consists of other animals that dig, e.g. moles and groundhogs.

Hunting strategies

When a badger decides it is time for lunch, he will make a meticulous study of his prey, its surroundings, his surroundings and the best way to capture the animal. He has a few strategies that depend on the location or action of the prey.

If the prey is in its den, then the badger will go to the exit hole(s) and cover them up with dirt and rocks. He will then go to the entrance of the den and start digging as fast as he can. Naturally, the prey soon heads for his escape route, only to find it capped—with no time left to dig another way out.

If the prey is not in its den, the badger will sometimes enter and wait inside for its return.12

Another strategy the badger uses involves some old friends or, rather, enemies. When a badger is young, he might be seen as a prey item for a coyote (and vice versa). However, when they have grown, they no longer see each other as prey, but as co-hunters.

So, when the coyote and the American badger team up for an attack on their prey, they use the same old tactic as mentioned earlier. Since the badger is the more excellent digger, the coyote is stationed at the exit hole and waits for the badger to send the prey his way. Once the prey is caught, the two unlikely partners share the meal.13

Badger ‘monks’

The American badger is a very solitary animal that only spends time socializing during breeding season or when raising a family. However, badgers have also been known to bury their own dead, and although they don’t have many visitors, they are constantly maintaining home and personal hygiene. American badgers have been seen to bury their droppings, frequently clean their setts and replace their bedding material (straw, leaves and bracken), and regularly groom their fur and body.14

Badger evolution (or lack thereof)

A badger fossil dubbed ‘Chamitataxus’ was found in deposits labeled by evolutionists as being six million years old. The fossil is clearly that of a badger, and in fact is so similar to modern-day American badgers that it’s been grouped together with them (rather than with the Eurasian badgers).15 Why no change in (supposedly) six million years?16

The true identity of the badger

The fossil stasis makes perfect sense given that living things were created from the very first—i.e. about 6,000 years ago—to reproduce “according to their kind” (see article p. 31), as God has revealed in His Word. The badger was originally created on the sixth day of creation, along with all the other land animals (Genesis 1:24–25). In its original, pre-Fall condition, the badger was a strict herbivore (Genesis 1:30). Since then, when sin entered the world, the badger has become an omnivore, preying largely on rodents.17

Even through all of this, it can still be seen that the American badger is a creature that God has made, “beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

How many ‘badgers’ did Noah need on the Ark?

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iStockphoto.com/Kaphoto black-badger

Today’s American badger, Taxidea taxus (see preceding article) is descended from a male and female pair of animals that Noah took on board the Ark about 4,500 years ago.

Also likely descended from that same pair are these nine non-American badger species: the European badger (Meles meles), the Asian badger (Meles leucurus), the Japanese badger (Meles anakuma), the hog badger (Arctonyx collaris—which lives in central and southeast Asia), the Chinese ferret-badger (Melogale moschata), the Javan ferret-badger (Melogale orientata), the Bornean ferret-badger (Melogale everetti), the Burmese ferret-badger (Melogale personata), and the Vietnam ferret-badger (Melogale cucphuongensis).

These are ten different species but also four different genera. It is important for Christians to remember, when asked, “How could Noah have taken all species aboard the Ark?”,1 that the biblical ‘kind’ is not the same thing as ‘species’, or even the ‘genus’.2

However, two species with ‘badger’ as their common name are most probably not descended from the same kind as these—the Asiatic ‘stink badgers’ of the genus Mydaus. These are grouped with the skunk family ‘Mephitidae’, rather than with the true badgers in the family ‘Mustelidae’.

But we haven’t exhausted the badger kind yet. The honey badger or ratel, Mellivora capensis, marks the 11th species and the 5th genus of badgers in the Mustelidae, which is sometimes referred to as the ‘weasel family’. Indeed, the honey badger itself is often described as ‘weasel-like’. In fact, it’s highly likely that weasels and other members of the Mustelidae are also descended from the same ancestral pair as the badgers. That includes not just the likes of polecats and stoats (ermine) but also otters—recent genetic studies point to American badgers having become reproductively isolated from Eurasian badgers before weasels, ferrets and otters were.3

The Mustelidae is actually therefore a great example of post-Flood adaptation and speciation—which as we’ve pointed out many times, are not evolution!4 As badgers ‘diversified’ or ‘diverged’ to become the creatures we now refer to as minks, martens, mountain weasels, and marbled polecats, there was nothing happening of the kind needed to support the evolutionary claim that bacteria became badgers and biologists over billions of years. This sort of diversification, as when mongrel dogs gave rise to new breeds, does not require any new genetic information to arise. It involves the new varieties or species carrying less variation than the ancestral group.5 Each species within the Mustelidae is carrying a subset of the genes borne by the mustelid pair aboard the Ark. That pair of animals on the Ark was in turn descended from the original ‘badger kind’ created on Day 6 of Creation Week, about 6,000 years ago.6

So here’s something to tell your friends (but it’s long, so take a big breath first!): Noah didn’t need to take pairs of American badgers, Eurasian badgers, hog badgers, honey badgers, ferret-badgers, weasels, stoats, ferrets, minks, sables, polecats, martens, fishers, wolverines and otters on board the Ark—he only needed two ‘badgers’!

References

  1. For other key points see “How did the animals fit on the Ark?”—chapter 13 of The Creation Answers Book, available creation.com/store.
  2. The descendants of a given kind can be represented today by a species, or genus. Our own kind is an example (Homo sapiens, and likely includes the Neandertals and Homo erectus). But it is also sometimes going to be at the family level, as here, depending on the amount of diversification that has taken place.
  3. Yu, L., Peng, D., Liu, J., and 6 others, On the phylogeny of Mustelidae subfamilies: analysis of seventeen nuclear non-coding loci and mitochondrial complete genomes, BMC Evol. Biol. 11:92, 2001.
  4. E.g. see Catchpoole, D., The 3 Rs of evolution: Rearrange, Remove, Ruin—in other words, no evolution!, Creation 35(2):47–49, 2013; creation.com/3rs.
  5. Even common sense will tell you that Great Danes can never be bred from Chihuahuas, though together they could in theory form the original ‘mongrel’ ancestor group. The more specialized daughter group only has a subset of the original genes.
  6. The capacity to hybridize (fertile offspring or not) suggest that two species are the same ‘kind’. Hybrids between polecats, ferrets, minks and weasels abound.

References and notes

  1. The term “badgering” came from a form of badger-baiting where dogs were released on a badger that was in a cage. The badger would get irritated by the dogs, hence the term ‘badgering’ was coined to mean ‘to harass’. Return to text.
  2. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Taxidea taxus American badger, mnh.si.edu, acc. 20 June 2013. Return to text.
  3. Lindzey, F., Badger: Taxidea taxus—pp. 653–663 in: Chapman, J. and Feldhamer, G., (Eds.), Wild mammals of North America: Biology, management, and economics, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, USA, 1982. Return to text.
  4. Messick, J. and Hornocker, M., Ecology of the Badger in Southwestern Idaho, Wildlife Monographs 76(76):1–53, 1981. Return to text.
  5. Canadian Museum of Nature, Mammals: American badger, nature.ca/notebooks/english/ambadger.htm, acc. 17 June 2013. Return to text.
  6. Feldhamer, G., Thompson, B., and Chapman, J., Wild Mammals of North America: Biology, Management, and Conservation, p. 683, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, USA, 2003. Return to text.
  7. Institute in Basic Life Principles Inc., Character Sketches—Vol. 1, IBLP, Oak Brook, IL, USA, 1976, p. 358. Return to text.
  8. Ref. 7, p. 359. Return to text.
  9. Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Furbearer Guide: Badger, dnr.state.il.us/orc/wildlife/furbearers/badger.htm, acc. 18 June 2013. Return to text.
  10. Badger info—facts & myths, badger.org/facts.html, acc. 18 June 2013. Return to text.
  11. Owen, P., Taxidea taxus, American badger, digimorph.org/specimens/Taxidea_taxus, acc. 25 May 2013. Return to text.
  12. Long, C. and Killingley, C., The badgers of the world, Charles C. Thomas Publishing, Springfield, IL, USA, 1983. Return to text.
  13. Haemig, P., Badger-Coyote Associations, Ecology Info#11, 2012. Return to text.
  14. Ref. 7, p 360. Return to text.
  15. I.e. in the same subfamily, Taxidiinae (rather than with the Eurasian badgers in the subfamily Melinae, or with the honey badger in the subfamily Mellivorinae). Owen, P., Description of a new Late Miocene American Badger (Taxidiinae) utilizing high-resolution x-ray computed tomography, Paleontology 49(5):999–1011, 2006. Return to text.
  16. Compare Bell, P., Evolutionary Stasis: Double-Speak and Propaganda, Creation 28(2):38–40, 2006; creation.com/stasis. Return to text.
  17. The badger’s prey hunting strategies are so clever that they appear to derive from a designed instinct—reflecting the Creator’s foreknowledge of the Fall. See the discussion re “Did God create animals with design-attack structures?” in chapter 6 of The Creation Answers Book, available creation.com/store. Also see articles listed at creation.com/carnivory. Return to text.

Reader’s comments

John C.
My congratulations to Jacob Howard, both on his high school career, and on providing us with a very informative, well-written article. May God bless his every effort to use his talents to please his Creator!

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