Printer Friendly

The American badger (Taxidea taxus) in Arkansas, with emphasis on expansion of its range into northeastern Arkansas.

The American badger (Taxidea taxus) generally is a grassland carnivore preying most heavily on burrowing rodents and rabbits (Lindzey, 2003). in the southeastern United States, American badgers are most common in plains habitats and are observed less often in historically forested areas (Bee et al., 1981; Caire et al., 1989; Davis and Schmidly, 1994). In recent years, however, American badgers have been documented extending their range southward in some northern states (Lindzey, 2003) and eastward in the northern United States (Nugent and Choate, 1970), Texas (Davis and Schmidly, 1994), and Oklahoma (Tumlison and Bastarache, 2008). This eastern expansion possibly resulted from changes in habitats caused by logging and clearing of land (Schwartz and Schwartz, 1981; Lindzey, 2003).

A few scattered records have indicated possible eastward expansion of the American badger in the ozark region of northern Arkansas. Among several sight records, only the skin of an adult male was documented (collected in 1964 from Washington County in northwestern Arkansas; Sealander and Forsyth, 1966) until several sight records (Sealander and Heidt, 1990) were supported by a specimen trapped in 1983 near the Arkansas River in Franklin County (Cartwright and Heidt, 1994). A disjunct record of an adult male that was roadkilled in 1993 also was reported farther eastward in Stone County (Cartwright and Heidt, 1994), which was explained by proximity to the White River and the occurrence of loamy soils (deemed by them to represent appropriate digging habitat). Still, scarcity of records led Heidt et al. (1996) to conclude that the American badger was rare in Arkansas.

During the past decade, new records of American badgers in Arkansas (and particularly in northeastern Arkansas) have been submitted to the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. Most of these records are disjunct from previous records (and in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain ecoregion rather than within the ozark Physiographic Region); therefore, we sought to validate and interpret new records and the apparent expansion into northeastern Arkansas.

American badgers have been classified as furbearers in Arkansas since the 1980-1981 trapping season and have been legal to take during trapping seasons since then. We conducted a questionnaire survey of ca. 3,000 people who obtained Arkansas resident-trapper permits in 2008, of which ca. 1,200 responded. only eight reported taking American badgers. Counties from which American badgers were reported include Garland, Marion, Miller, Polk, Pope, Prairie, and Scott. More than a decade earlier, a similar mail survey of trappers and state biologists (Majors et al., 1996) produced observations of American badgers from Howard, Lafayette, and Pike counties of southwestern Arkansas that were deemed unlikely to be valid due to habitat and distance from other verified locations, so the authors suggested that woodchucks (Marmota monax) more likely were observed. Coincidentally, follow-up correspondence with our surveyed trappers who reported American badgers led to a recanting of reports from Garland, Polk, and Miller counties, partly due to misidentification of woodchucks. Therefore, we exercised caution while evaluating records of sightings submitted to the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and reports submitted to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, including records submitted by fur buyers.

County-specific records submitted by fur buyers as part of their reports to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission were deemed reasonable in some cases and unreliable in others. Records indicated American badgers had been taken in Randolph (year reported, 1978), Pulaski (1979), Benton (1979), Washington (1980, 20032005, 2008), Yell (1982), Newton (1995), and Ashley (1996) counties. Those records from Benton, Newton, and Washington counties lie within the area of the ozark Physiographic Region recently documented, and may reflect removal from real populations. A fur buyer also reported an American badger from Newton County in 1977 (Sealander, 1990). Recaptures have revealed that dispersing young may move [less than or equal to] 110 km through hypothetically unsuitable habitat (Messick and Hornocker, 1981); therefore, reports from Yell and Randolph counties may be reasonable, especially considering their proximity to records reported either previously or herein. Due to location in relation to previously verified records, however, we particularly doubt validity of reports from Pulaski and Ashley counties. For the present study, we focused attention on reports with the most substantial support, and especially from northeastern Arkansas where several records have appeared since 2003. To assess validity of reports made to state agencies, we contacted respondents from the questionnaire survey as well as other observers and also document photo-verified records and two new specimens collected as roadkills.

Documentation of populations of American badgers is difficult due to their nocturnal habits and wary nature; many records are based on discovery of specimens hit along roadways (Mumford and Whitaker, 1982). Herein, we document five roadkilled individuals verified via photographs, and two of these also were collected and deposited in the mammal collection at Arkansas State University Museum of Zoology (ASUMZ). Another photo-documented record included five living individuals in a den. Four additional records are included that we believe also are valid after interviews with observers, coupled with proximity to photo-verified locations.

Craighead County--A total of five American badgers have been reported from Craighead County (Fig. 1), two of which were reported in 2003. A roadkill was photographed by T. Teel on 9 January 2003 on county road 907, 2.0 km (1.25 mile) N of its junction with Highway 18, east of Jonesboro (35.839722[degrees]N, -90.583333[degrees]W). The road runs parallel to Little Bay Ditch. The animal was hit by a young motorist and a local newspaper article (Jonesboro Sun, 25 January 2003) reported the specimen to be a "13-pound, 30-inch-long animal." The American badger had been hit next to the drainage ditch, which had high banks, sandy loam soil, and no tall vegetation.

A different observer, L. Fair, reported a roadkilled American badger found 5 June 2003 on the northeastern side of Jonesboro, along Johnson Avenue near its intersection with Highway 49 (35.852222[degrees]N, -90.667222[degrees]W). The north side of the road at the site was an open field with woody edges.

Two additional individuals were found in 2006. On 5 May 2006, R. and L. Herron photographed a roadkill on Highway 18, ca. 1.6 km (1 mile) east of the Saint Francis River bridge near Lake City. Another roadkill near Lake City was reported by T. Teel on 22 June 2006. It was 0.4 km (0.25 mile) west of the junction of Highway 18 East and Highway 135 North (35.822125[degrees]N, -90.470634[degrees]W). The observation was adjacent to a cotton field with sandy loam soil, and the numerous small ditches in the area had no tall vegetation.

Most recently, a roadkilled specimen was found on 3 April 2009 by S. C. Brandebura, in the northbound lane of U.S. Highway 63, north of Trumann (35.713847[degrees]N, -90.576508[degrees]W). The site is an agricultural area ca. 1.2 km (0.75 mile) northwest of the Craighead-Poinsett county line. Available standard measurements for the male were: total length, 711 mm; length of tail, 140 mm; and length of ear, 51 mm (skin specimen, ASUMZ 28539).

Crittenden County--A live animal with a "white and black striped face" was seen by D. Reed on 29 September 2007, standing near a blacktop road 1.6 km (1 mile) N Ebony. A former sand-mining operation in the area left numerous sand pits, which became a favorite location for coyote and bobcat hunters, and may have provided habitat more recently for American badgers.

Validity of this sight record for Crittenden County was substantiated by photographs of live American badgers taken 29 May 2009 near Proctor (35.081878[degrees]N, -90.335088W[degrees]). About 2 years earlier, R. Malone observed a suspected coyote den in a levee near a tree line. in 2009, he found a new den that looked "exactly the same as the other den ca. 150 m from the old den" in his bean field. He set a sheet of plywood behind the entrance of the new den so the occupants would have to face a wildlife trail camera when emerging from the den. Resulting photographs taken during 0937-1722 h included either one or two American badgers. Malone reported simultaneously seeing the heads of as many as three individuals at the entrance, and heard two more interacting with each other in the den at that time. Visible individuals appeared to be similar-sized adults, although one individual was described as a runt.


Mating by American badgers occurs in July and August, and parturition occurs in March and April (Long, 1973). Because they are solitary except for breeding pairs and family groups (Lindzey, 2003), the observation of five cohabiting adult (or near adult) individuals in late May likely represents a family group prior to dispersal. Malone mentioned that the American badgers had not been seen since the images were taken, but growth of the bean crop had obscured the view. These observations represent the first evidence of breeding by American badgers in Arkansas. We are aware of no other confirmed evidence of breeding by American badgers in southeastern Missouri or northern Arkansas.

Lawrence County--A roadkilled male was photographed by H. Ginn on 20 September 2007. The animal was in an agricultural field and was believed to have been killed by farm equipment. The carcass was on a gravel road off Highway 412 west of Walnut Ridge, ca. 0.8 km (0.5 mile) down county road 451S (36.064619[degrees]N, -90.993925[degrees]W). The animal was near a creek, and land at the site included rice and soybean fields.

Marion County--A trapper, J. Parsons, reported taking an American badger from Marion County on 29 November 2008. The American badger was taken from the bank of Crooked Creek south of Pyatt by use of a 1.75 Victor coilspring trap baited with meat from an American beaver (Castor canadensis). Because the catch was unusual for the area, the trapper took images, which allowed us to verify the identification and consider this to be a validated record.

The following year (23 August 2009), a roadkill found by D. L. Gilley was collected in Marion County, on Arkansas Highway 14 ca. 8 km (5 miles) S Yellville (36.15255[degrees]N, -92.67405[degrees]W). The specimen is deposited in the collection of mammals at Arkansas State University (ASUMZ 28540).

Poinsett County--A roadkill was reported by T. Teel on 8 November 2005, found 2.4 km (1.5 mile) N Shady Grove near ditch 9 (35.687580[degrees]N, -90.579853[degrees]W). The animal was on a county road by a drainage ditch clear of tall vegetation and with high banks. The area was agricultural and composed of sandy loam soil.

The expanding range of the American badger into the Mississippi Alluvial Plain of northeastern Arkansas likely originated from southeastern Missouri. American badgers are well known from central Missouri, and the Missouri Department of Conservation had reported them from most counties of the ozark Physiographic Region bordering Arkansas ( applications/mofwis/Mofwis_Detail.aspx?id=0500002). Accessed 6 November 2007, this document listed seven counties (Butler, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Scott, and Stoddard) as not likely to support populations of American badgers. These counties represent the most southeastern region (the bootheel) of Missouri and occur in the Mississippi lowlands region, which is considered to be poor habitat for American badgers. However, the same website accessed 6 August 2009 showed that American badgers now were known from Dunklin and Stoddard counties. Historically, the area was swampland, but deforestation and drainage have brought it into cultivation (Schwartz and Schwartz, 1981). Butler, Dunklin, and Pemiscot counties border Arkansas.

Biologists from the Missouri Department of Conservation were contacted to evaluate the possibility of further dispersal of American badgers into southeastern Missouri, beyond that reported on the website. All counties in Missouri that are in the Mississippi Lowlands region, previously considered to lack habitat for American badgers, were reported to now have observations of American badgers. in recent years, several reports of American badgers have originated from Dunklin County, particularly in the area of Kennett and Campbell, and three reports of roadkills were made in 2007. A record from Stoddard County was near the Dunklin County line, and records from Butler County also have been received. Records from Scott County originated from near Oran, Chaffee, and Blodgett (R. Gillespie, pers. comm.).

Perry and Cape Girardeau counties, in Missouri, border the Mississippi River and have produced recent records of American badgers from the bluffregions of the Bois Brule bottoms (R. Gillespie, pers. comm.). New observations in southeastern Missouri, the newest records from northeastern Arkansas, and reports from Missouri seem to indicate a southerly route of dispersal down the Mississippi and Saint Francis rivers, and along Crowley's Ridge in both states.

Crowley's Ridge (in Missouri, including the Bloomfield Ridge and Benton Hills) extends from just south of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, southward to Helena, Arkansas (Fig. 1). It is surrounded by the Mississippi Alluvial Plain in both states. The ridge rises above the flat deltaic area and is composed of loessal soils, which are sandy and well drained, and originally supported an upland hardwood forest while surrounded by bottomlands (Foti, 1974).

In other states, American badgers have been trapped where soils are suited to easy digging, such as in banks of gravel pits, along streams and roadside shoulders, along railroad rights-of-way, in old fields, and at burrows of woodchucks (Mumford and Whitaker, 1982; Hoffmeister, 1989). Alteration of habitats creating appropriate habitat in northeastern Arkansas is perhaps explanatory of the new southerly range expansion of American badgers documented herein. Similarly, habitats and corridors created by construction of highways apparently have allowed woodchucks to extend their range southward in Arkansas (Tumlison et al., 2007).

American badgers consume burrowing mammals such as woodchucks and cottontails (Sylvilagus; Mumford and Whitaker, 1982), but they supplement their diet with a variety of other items (Messick, 1987), and are known to modify dens of woodchucks for their own use (Bee et al., 1981). Presence of rabbits, woodchucks, and many smaller rodents in agricultural areas of northeastern Arkansas provides an abundant food supply suitable for American badgers.

American badgers tend to be rare in forested habitats but most common in agricultural habitats where soil is sandy-loam in texture (Bee et al., 1981; Apps et al., 2002). Such habitat was created to accommodate agriculture in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, which was modified through deforestation and construction of levees and drainage systems. The area became more prairie-like, and the well-drained loessal soils forming Crowley's Ridge provide good burrowing habitat. Dispersal of American badgers has been documented along roadways and rivers, and the Mississippi, Black, and Saint Francis rivers drain in a southwestwardly direction in much of northeastern Arkansas. The Saint Francis River and Crowley's Ridge explain many of the recent locations of American badgers from Craighead and Poinsett counties of Arkansas especially well.

We thank C. Osborne, K. Harris, D. Reed, and T. Teel, and T. Dunlavy, L. Fair, D. L. Gilley, H. Ginn, R. Malone, andJ. Parsons for information concerning observations of American badgers in Arkansas. Information for Missouri was provided by J. Beringer and R. Gillespie. The Spanish resumen was provided by H. Perez and T. N. Tumlison.


APPS, C. D., N. J. NEWHOUSE, AND T. A. KINLEY. 2002. Habitat associations of American badgers in southeastern British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Zoology 80:1228-1239.

BEE, J. W., G. E. GLASS, R. S. HOFFMANN, AND R. R. PATTERSON. 1981. Mammals in Kansas. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, Public Education Series 7:1-300.

CAIRE, W., J. D. TYLER, B. P. GLASS, AND M. A. MARES. 1989. Mammals of oklahoma. university of oklahoma Press, Norman.

CARTWRIGHT, M. E., AND G. A. HEIDT. 1994. Distributional records of the badger (Taxidea taxus) in Arkansas. Proceedings of the Arkansas Academy of Science 48:248.

DAVIS, W. B., AND D. J. SCHMIDLY. 1994. The mammals of Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife Press, Austin.

FOTI, T. L. 1974. Natural divisions of Arkansas. Pages 11-34 in Arkansas natural area plan. Arkansas Department of Planning, Little Rock.

HEIDT, G. A., D. E. ELROD, AND V. R. MCDANIEL. 1996. Biogeography of Arkansas mammals with notes on species of questionable status. Proceedings of the Arkansas Academy of Science 50:60-65.

HOFFMEISTER, D. F. 1989. Mammals of Illinois. University of Illinois Press, urbana.

LINDZEY, F. G. 2003. Badger, Taxidea taxus. Pages 683-691 in Wild mammals of North America: biology, management, and conservation (G. A. Feldhamer, B. C. Thompson, and J. A. Chapman, editors). Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.

LONG, C. A. 1973. Taxidea taxus. Mammalian Species 26:1-4. Majors, T. J., D. C. Brock, and G. A. Heidt. 1996. A mail survey to determine the status of the black-tailed jackrabbit, ringtail cat, long-tailed weasel, badger and eastern spotted skunk in Arkansas. Proceedings of the Arkansas Academy of Science 50:127-130.

MESSICK, J. P. 1987. North American badger. Pages 586-597 in Wild furbearer management and conservation in North America (M. Novak, J. A. Baker, M. E. Obbard, and B. Mallock, editors). Ontario Trappers Association and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

MESSICK, J. P., AND M. G. HORNOCKER. 1981. Ecology of the badger in southwestern Idaho. Wildlife Monographs 76:1-53.

MUMFORD, R. E., AND J. O. WHITAKER, JR. 1982. Mammals of indiana. indiana university Press, Bloomington.

NUGENT, R. F., AND J. R. CHOATE. 1970. Eastward dispersal of the badger, Taxidea taxus, into the northeastern United States. Journal of Mammalogy 51:626-627.

SCHWARTZ, C. W., AND E. R. SCHWARTZ. 1981. The wild mammals of Missouri. University of Missouri Press and Missouri Department of Conservation, Columbia.

SEALANDER, J. A., AND B. J. FORSYTH. 1966. Occurrence of the badger in Arkansas. Southwestern Naturalist 11:134.

SEALANDER, J. A., AND G. A. HEIDT. 1990. Arkansas mammals: their natural history, classification, and distribution. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville.

TUMLISON, R., AND R. BASTARACHE. 2008. New records of the badger (Taxidea taxus) in southeastern oklahoma. Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science 87:107-109.

TUMLISON, R., B. SASSE, T. PENNINGTON, AND N. FREEMAN. 2007. Recent records of the distribution of woodchucks (Marmota monax) in Arkansas. Journal of the Arkansas Academy of Science 61:109-112.

Submitted 3 August 2010. Accepted 14 July 2012.

Associate Editor was Stephen G. Mech.


Department of Biology, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, AR 71999 (RT)

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, 213A Highway 89 South, Mayflower, AR 72106 (DBS)

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, P.O. Box 729, Calico Rock, AR 72519 (MEC)

Department of Biological Sciences, Arkansas State University, P.O. Box 599, State University, AR 72467-0599 (SCB, TK)

Present address of MEC: 3150 Tie Ridge Road, Fifty Six, AR 72533

* Correspondent:
COPYRIGHT 2012 Southwestern Association of Naturalists
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Notes
Author:Tumlison, Renn; Sasse, D. Blake; Cartwright, Michael E.; Brandebura, Stephen C.; Klotz, Tracy
Publication:Southwestern Naturalist
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Dec 1, 2012
Previous Article:Visual summary of herpetofaunal diversity in Texas.
Next Article:Evidence for freeze tolerance in the eastern fence lizard (Sceloporus undulatus).

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters