On April 11, Bend wildlife center, Think Wild, received a call about an American Badger cub found alone near the Malheur Field Station near Crane, Oregon. The badger cub had been abandoned by the mother and was hypothermic and dehydrated. Think Wild worked with the finder to attempt to reunite the cub with the mother for multiple days and nights. But unfortunately, the badger cub did not make it, and on the final attempt, another orphaned cub was discovered presumably from the same litter. At that point, Think Wild staff decided to bring in the surviving orphaned badger cub for care at their wildlife hospital facility in Bend.
Upon intake, Think Wild veterinarian, Dr. Laura Acevedo, determined that the badger cub was about 5 weeks old, female, and in good health and body condition. This is the first badger ever accepted for rehabilitation at Think Wild, and a rare animal to rehabilitate in general. To ensure the best possible chance at a successful eventual release, Think Wild staff reached out to wildlife rehabilitators across the US, as well as several specialists in Europe, to confirm the most appropriate diet, feeding, enclosure, and enrichment plans.
A few weeks later, on May 8, another young American Badger was found near a deceased mother that was hit by a car near Klamath Falls. This orphaned male badger cub was taken to Wildlife Images, a wildlife hospital in Grants Pass. According to Lindsay Magill, Clinic Manager at Wildlife Images, “our staff makes every effort to reunite possible orphans with their families, especially in the case of highly specialized predators like badgers. Unfortunately, this patient’s parent was likely moving nesting burrows when she was hit by a car, and it was confirmed that she did not survive the impact. Luckily, a good samaritan spotted this week-old cub crawling on the road and intervened to keep him from the same fate.”
Wildlife Images contacted Think Wild to collaborate on badger care protocols, and staff at both hospitals decided that the best chance of successful rehabilitation for the two cubs would be to raise and release them together once old enough. Because Think Wild had been caring for the female badger cub for three weeks and had appropriate enclosures, Wildlife Images would transfer the young male to Think Wild once stable enough for travel.
American Badgers are notoriously difficult to rehabilitate because they can easily become habituated to humans if proper protocols are not established. In order to develop skills and behaviors they will need for life in the wild, they must practice foraging, catching and eating live prey, and self-defense skills that are best gained through interactions with adults and other young badgers. To ensure a successful introduction between the two badger cubs, who are about three weeks apart in age, staff at Think Wild initially housed the male and female in separate but adjacent enclosures so they could hear and smell one another. After one week of this setup, the two badgers were slowly introduced to one another, with increasing intervals of interactions. Over the course of three days, and once staff were confident that they would not harm one another, the two were permanently combined.
Staff installed trail cameras in the badger enclosures at Think Wild in order to monitor their development while minimizing contact with humans. For feedings and other care, staff wear full camouflage ghillie suits, face masks and shields, rain bibs and boots to minimize human scent. The badgers are being fed a species-appropriate carnivorous diet, generously donated by Inter Mountain Raw, a raw pet food company dedicated to producing whole, quality raw pet diets to the Pacific Northwest. Their donation of raw lamb, pork, chicken, beef green tripe, and poultry liver have allowed Think Wild to provide high quality raw food for the quickly growing badger cubs.
The two badger cubs in Think Wild’s care are scheduled to be released together in midsummer at a location approved by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The location was chosen based on badger habitat and behavior, as well as appropriate distance away from humans and roads.
American Badgers are large members of the weasel family. They live mostly in grasslands and prairie regions throughout the North American continent where soil is sandy enough to dig numerous burrows, in which they sleep, den, and hunt for rodent prey. American Badgers are normally solitary animals who seek out other badgers during breeding season in the fall. While not a species of high conservation concern, badger populations in North America are vulnerable to climate change and habitat fragmentation. Think Wild is hopeful that the release of these two badger cubs will help maintain healthy badger populations in Central Oregon.