You won’t believe the incredible feat that a badger pulled off right in front of video cameras somewhere in Utah.
University of Utah researchers just captured a badger doing something that totally blew their minds. While conducting a study on scavenging behavior of local wildlife, they caught a badger on camera burying a whole cow carcass three times its size in the dirt, a huge feat that took hours and had never been observed before in badgers.
Researchers left seven calf carcasses in the Grassy Mountains of Utah and then set up cameras to see how scavengers acted when they came upon them. They expected to see videos of vultures and coyotes and maybe even eagles, but when one carcass mysteriously disappeared, they were shocked by what they found when they checked the cameras. The cow hadn’t gone anywhere at all, except down.
A badger, immediately upon finding the cow carcass, started digging tunnels underneath it until they collapsed under the weight of the cow. The badger then buried the cow, something that scientists didn’t think this animal did. In addition, despite the fact that badgers are nocturnal, the animal happily worked during the daylight hours. The video is embedded at the bottom of this post.
“We know a lot about badgers morphologically and genetically, but behaviorally there’s a lot of blank spaces that need to be filled,” says senior Ethan Frehner, first author on the paper documenting the badger behavior, in a statement from the University of Utah. “This is a substantial behavior that wasn’t at all known about.”
Doctoral candidate Evan Buechley started the research in January 2016, planting seven carcasses in Utah’s Grassy Mountains. When he found one missing, he was disappointed at first.
“When I first got there I was bummed because it’s hard to get these carcasses, to haul them out and set them up,” he says. “I thought ‘Oh, well we’ve lost one after a week.’”
But then he started searching the area, and after finding no signs that a mountain lion or coyote had dragged it away, he examined the ground more closely, and noticed it disturbed.
“Right on the spot I downloaded the photos,” he says, “We didn’t go out to study badgers specifically, but the badger declared itself to us.”
Frehner says we actually don’t know much about the badger.
“They’re an enigmatic species,” he said in the statement. “A substantial amount of their lifetime is spent either underground or a lot of nocturnal behavior, so it’s hard to directly observe that.”