North America is the penultimate continent I will be focusing on, in line with the next episode of ‘Seven Worlds, One Planet’. As we enter December, there is no better continent to discuss when it comes to drastic seasonal change. North America’s deserts, tundra, prairie, forests, coasts and wetlands will all be experiencing changes as we enter the winter months. To survive and thrive here, plants and animals must be daring and adaptable.
One animal that has dominated a range of habitats across North America is the American badger (Taxidea taxus). Although their preferred habitat is grassland and prairie, they are capable of living in forests, marshes, meadows and deserts. These badgers are easily identifiable by a thin, white stripe extending from their nose to their back. The rest of their body is covered with a coat of long brown, black and white fur. These colours merge together, resulting in a brown-tan appearance that serves as effective camouflage in their habitat. As with other badgers, they have stout bodies with short legs.
The American badger is a nocturnal, burrowing animal. They use their burrows for sleeping, hunting, storing food, avoiding danger and giving birth. These mammals have strong forelimbs and huge, sharp foreclaws. This makes them excellent diggers. Their favourite habitat is prairie due to the friable soil and plentiful supply of prey. American badgers are known as fossorial carnivores (carnivores that are adapted to digging and hunting underground). Their diet is varied but mammalian prey includes ground squirrels, moles, marmots, prairie dogs, gophers, pika, kangaroo rats and voles. They have developed expert hunting techniques to catch their burrowing prey. For example, they plug tunnel entrances with objects and dig to lead their target into a trap.
American badgers also have a more sinister hunting method. They will dig into the burrow of an unsuspecting mammal whilst they’re not home and wait for their return. The victim will be in for an unwelcome surprise when they get home. Aside from mammals, the American badger also preys on rattlesnakes, ground-nesting birds, burrowing owls, lizards, amphibians, insects and bees. This creature’s fearless attitude means that they only have a few natural predators. Cougars are their main predators, although grey wolves and bears occasionally hunt them too.
Hennessy, K., Wiggins, V. (2014) Animal Encyclopedia: The Definitive Visual Guide. 2nd edn. London. Dorling Kindersley.
Seven Worlds, One Planet Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm5XasUl7HM