On the lookout for American badger sightings in the Columbia Valley

Badgers are endangered in the area

As badgers are an endangered species in the area, a local project is looking for the public to report sightings. (Contributed)

As badgers are an endangered species in the area, a local project is looking for the public to report sightings. (Contributed)

A new project supported by the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners (CWSP) has put a call out for observational reports from the public on the local American badger population in the Columbia Valley.

The leading project biologist will be Rachel Darvill, who has lead many local projects such as the Columbia Valley Swallow Project.

Project leaders are looking for information on all badger roadkill sites, dens, burrows, and dead or alive sightings, and are encouraging the public to record their interactions with the creatures.

According to CWSP, southeastern British Columbia and the Columbia Valley is the northern extent of where American badgers live.

The American badger is considered an endangered species.

“We are interested in knowing where American badgers are using dens in the Columbia Valley, especially where areas of high suitable badger habitat overlap with public crown land,” said Darvill.

“These areas can be conserved through various regulations, but first we need to identify where those important areas are.”

Badgers have stocky and flattened bodies with short, powerful legs. As few as 100 mature badgers live in the East Kootenay region.

Currently, they are vulnerable to being wiped out from increasing threats like roadkill, the loss of open habitat needed, and urban development.

Badgers have large home ranges with hundreds of different burrows per individual. The burrows have an entrance that resembles a large elliptical hole, often with a mound of dirt at the entrance, says CWSP

Badgers often change locations daily and reuse burrows from year to year, making it important to ensure that unoccupied burrows are not destroyed.

Badgers use dens for denning, foraging, resting and as a source of shelter.

“We are also interested if any badger denning and burrow sites are found in areas that we have already designated as wildlife corridors (through Kootenay Connect) that are important to other large ranging species like grizzly bear and elk,” said Darvill.

Their primary food source in this region is ground squirrels, which are often locally referred to as gophers.

Like badgers, Columbian ground squirrels also live in burrows, and at first glance it can be confusing to distinguish these holes from the ones badgers make, explained Darvill.

“It has been shown that soil and prey availability are the key defining features or requirements for badger habitat,” said Darvill.

To report sightings of badgers and dens, contact the CWSP with your observations at badgersightings@gmail.com.

This project is a partnership with Kootenay Connect and is financially supported by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) through the Canada Nature Fund with equal matching funding from local partners.