Other than those that cluster near Madison, Wisconsin, badgers are seldom encountered by the casual naturalist. Though they inhabit most of central and western North America, from southern Canada to northern Mexico, American badgers are primarily nocturnal and are solitary for most of the year. These mustelids, cousins of weasels, otters and wolverines, favor open grasslands and desert scrub; they are thus most common in semiarid prairie regions but may inhabit foothill meadows, glades and oak savannas.
Built low to the ground, badgers are powerful diggers, using their large foreclaws to excavate dens and to reach their prey; the latter consist primarily of ground squirrels, prairie dogs, gophers and other small mammals but may also include lizards, snakes, burrowing owls and large insects. Mating occurs in late summer or early autumn and, following a period of delayed implantation, a litter of 2-5 kits are born in early spring.
Young badgers may be taken by golden eagles, fox or coyotes but tough-minded adults are generally left alone (wolves or mountain lions may kill a few); of course, American badgers are also common victims along our concrete ribbons of death. Nevertheless, those that survive the first year of life often live for a decade or more.