The American Badger (Taxidea taxus) is a carnivore in the family Mustelidae, which includes weasels, otters, and ferrets. Badgers were known to prey on moles, squirrels, mice, and other small mammals, often digging into their dens to nab them.
Badgers have also been reported to bury their prey underground. But what was not known, and is now reported by a journal and by National Public Radio (NPR), is that badgers will bury big carcasses killed by others—in this case, cows placed in the desert by Americans. Here’s part of what NPR said:
University of Utah researchers placed seven cow carcasses in Utah’s Great Basin Desert, and set up cameras to learn about the behavior patterns of local scavengers.
But a week later, researcher Evan Buechley returned to one of the sites and found no sign of the cow.
“And my first reaction was to be fairly disappointed,” he told The Two-Way. After all, it takes a lot of effort to drag a 50-plus-pound cow through the desert. Buechley explained that he thought maybe a coyote had taken the cow away.
This video shows a time-lapse sequence of the five-day burial (they could have done without the music!). And here’s my ode to the badger:
This is a busy badger:
He works both day and night;
Round and round the cow he digs,
Till the beast is out of sight,
More from NPR:
. . . .The video shows the badger working day and night for five days. Then, it built a den connected to the carcass and did not surface often.
“So it worked overtime for five days like really, really intensely, and then it just had a two-week feeding fest,” Buechley added.
. . . It’s the first time an American badger (Taxidea taxus) has been documented burying an animal larger than itself, the researchers said in a press release. Their findings were recently published in Western North American Naturalist.
What’s more, when Buechley went to check the next carcass, he found that it had also been almost entirely buried by a different badger. The foot remained tied to a stake, but otherwise it was “mostly buried,” he said.
The press release gives more details (e.g., the badger didn’t leave the food den once for two weeks and then kept coming back for several more weeks); the reference to the original paper (free access) is below.