The Lifespan of American Badgers (How Long They Live in the Wild and Captivity)

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Badgers are some of the most common animals in North America. They are very common in the wild but can also be spotted in zoos or even as pets. While a common sight, they are not long-lived, as most badgers only live a few years in the wild.

Being the prey of larger animals doesn’t help either, as badgers face many dangers in the wild that often cut their lives short. Things like predators, unfamiliar environments, and human activity are just a few examples of these dangers. Despite that, badgers can thrive in the right conditions and with a lot of luck.

Welcome to Floofmania, and join us as we explore the lifespan of badgers and what affects it.

Two American badgers sitting next to dug-up soil on a green hill.

How Long Do American American Badgers Live In the Wild? 

American badgers typically live to be about 4 or 5 years in the wild. While this is the average, some badgers can live to be much older. Some manage to reach a decade old, while others reach 14 years in the wild.

Living this long is rare, though, as badgers face many dangers than can end their lives early on. How long badgers can survive in the wild depends on the environment and conditions they live in.

Do Badgers In Captivity Live Longer Than Wild Badgers?

Animals living in captivity normally live longer than their wild counterparts as they are safe from predators and diseases. Living in a zoo means you never have to worry about hunting for food or being hunted; everything is provided for you.

American badgers are no exception to this rule, and they have been found living for well over a decade, with the average lifespan being about 16 years in captivity. Some have even managed to live longer and reach over 20 years if they are properly cared for. 

Being in captivity doesn’t automatically mean badgers will live longer, though. How long they live depends on the conditions of captivity. If badgers have access to veterinary care and suitable habitat, they can live long, happy lives. Keeping them in a cramped cage can lead to medical issues that can leave them no better off than in the wild.

What’s The Oldest American Badger On Record?

While living around five years in the wild is common for badgers, this is far from their maximum lifespan, and a few manage to beat those odds.

The oldest badger found in the wild was 14 years old, or almost three times the average life expectancy in the wild! Our furry friend must have either been very strong or very lucky.

But that is just the oldest badger in the wild. In captivity, there have been badgers who are known to have lived longer, with some that reached 26 years old or five times the average lifespan in the wild. 

Fun Fact: American badgers are infamously shy animals known to avoid humans by hiding in burrows or running away, making gathering data about them difficult. The average lifespan of five years is only based on badgers humans have observed, which means the actual average could be much higher or lower than we realize. 
Two American badgers sitting on a grassy field next to a hole they've dug, once of them sniffing the ground.

What Affects An American Badger’s Lifespan?

To understand the badger’s lifespan, you must understand the environment they live in. There are many things all around that can drastically affect their life expectancy, so those need to be analyzed as well.

American Badgers Need Plenty of Resources

Just as people will struggle to survive in the desert or arctic, badgers will struggle to survive in habitats that don’t provide enough resources for them. These furry guys need a place to dig burrows, lots of food to hunt, plus a source of water. 

Depending on the quality of the habitat, badgers can require hundreds of square miles of terrain to make their territory. A good habitat needs plenty of food, especially for other animals. Badgers are carnivorous, so they spend much time hunting other animals, such as smaller mammals and insects.

Without enough food, competition with other animals and other badgers becomes more difficult, and animals are more likely to starve.

Aside from food, the ground also needs to be suitable for digging. Badgers are natural diggers, and their burrows are where they make their homes, start their families, and keep safe from danger. If the ground is too stony or sandy, it can make digging a secure burrow impossible and leave these industrious animals at the mercy of other animals. 

Hazardous Habitats Can Lead to A Lower Life Expectancy For American Badgers

Just as badgers need food and a place to make their home, the habitat should also be familiar and free from too many dangers if badgers are to live for a long time. Predators and hunters are just a few risks badgers face, but these won’t matter when the habitats actively work against them.

This is why places like rural and urban areas make poor habitats for American badgers. While there might be plenty of food, there are also plenty of dangers, and in these places, badgers are not as aware of their habitat, so they don’t always know what’s dangerous.

There are thousands of reported incidents of badgers getting into road accidents, getting trapped in fences or pipes, or falling and drowning in storm drains.

Even places unaffected by human activity can be a threat. Environments prone to forest fires and other natural disasters can make it difficult for badgers to live long lives as they have to deal with these problems on top of everything else.

Fact: While there isn’t much research on the exact numbers of roadside accidents of American badgers, there are some for their European cousins. At one point, as many as 50,000 badgers in the UK were the victims of roadside accidents in a single year!

Humans Are A Wildcard to American Badgers’ Life Expectancy

Two American badgers, one standing and another emerging from a hole in the ground next to tall grasses.

Few animals have as big of an impact on the environment as humans. In almost every ecosystem where there is human activity, we dramatically impact the quality and conditions of that ecosystem. By extension, we affect the animals’ lifespan, such as badgers.

We’ve already seen some of the effects of human presence on the badger’s survival, which are just the indirect causes. More direct causes include things like habitat destruction and hunting which can be devastating, drastically reducing badgers’ life expectancy.

When we push into a habitat, more often than not, we are also displacing animals and damaging their habitats. The problem is that it leaves them with less space and resources. 

For American badgers, this leads to increased competition between them as they fight for what little remains—which in turn leads to a higher mortality rate among badgers.

Aside from that, human activity also leads to a phenomenon known as habitat fragmentation. This is when different sections of the habitat are cut off from each other. 

These damages can be caused by anything from roads or forest fires. When the habitats become separated, traveling between them becomes more difficult, leading to more accidents and a lower quality of life, affecting badgers’ lifespan.

Aside from habitat loss, hunting is another major issue, as many people have long hunted badgers for sport, furs, or simply to keep them away from their properties. Badgers don’t enjoy the same protections as other animals and hunting them only has a few restrictions. 

Thousands of badgers are hunted each year which has seriously affected the population and lifespan of badgers, even driving these animals to localized extinctions.

Hunting is one of the main reasons why the European badger’s average lifespan is so short, as up until recently, organized hunting was not only legal but encouraged.

Even when not hunted for sport, American badgers often end up on people’s bad sides due to being considered pests. Badgers have been known to damage farmland and infrastructures like pipes, fences, and walls. That means many people go out of their way to get rid of badgers on their property, either by poison or hunting.

The American Badger’s High Metabolism Reduces Its Lifespan

Different life expectancy of a species is generally tied to an animal’s biology and metabolic rate. Think of this as gas in a car, some vehicles are very efficient with gas and burn as little as possible, and then there are gas guzzlers that burn through fuel and quickly empty the gas tank.

The metabolic rate is directly tied to how active the animal is. Animals like American badgers are very active, digging their burrows or hunting for food, not to mention hiding from larger animals. All of this means that American badgers burn a lot of energy.

Aside from metabolism, size also plays a part in the lifespan of anSize also plays a large role in the lifespan of an animal as larger animals. Being larger allows animals to survive fights, diseases, and other dangers that might be fatal for smaller animals. One look at the many threats badgers face will show that being bigger can go a long way in keeping them safe.

To a certain degree, a species’ place in the food chain also affects its metabolic rate. By having to avoid predators, American badgers burn through their energy faster. Although predators also need to burn energy to hunt them, they have two advantages. 

First is that animals like wolves and bears don’t have to worry as much about being hunted, allowing them to devote more energy to hunting. The second is that larger animals are typically better at regulating energy consumption.

Fun Fact: Metabolism rates also help explain why badgers living in captivity live longer. Aside from not having to compete for food, these badgers also have everything provided for them, so they expend less energy.
Two American badgers, one standing and another lying down on a green hill.

Do American Badger Females Live Longer Than Males?

Generally speaking, female mammals live longer than males, though it is difficult to tell if this is also true for American badgers. No research has been done that compares the lifespans of males and females. 

That doesn’t mean we have no answers, though. While we can’t say for sure, there are some things we can infer based on available general research on other mammals. Scientific research has shown that females tend to live longer than males in many species of mammals, and there are several ideas as to why:

  • Female mammals don’t participate in activities like fighting over mates and territory or challenging alphas for dominance.
  • Female mammals have a higher survival rate among species where males provide for the family because they are less exposed to danger.
  • Females and Males have different genetics. Since females have two X chromosomes, this can protect them from diseases or other medical issues.

For badgers, some of these same ideas apply to their behavior. Like many mammals, these little guys have a specific mating period, and males can be quite aggressive during that time. They are known to fight and even injure each other for the chance to mate with a female. Things like that can increase the mortality rate of male badgers.

Badgers are relatively solitary, and fighting over territory is something that happens, especially when there isn’t enough food to go around. The interesting thing is that males do this almost exclusively as female badgers are rarely challenged over territory.

However, American badgers don’t follow all of these behaviors. 

Once mating season is done, male badgers do not stick around and raise their cubs, and that job falls solely to the female badgers. Aside from having to get food for themselves, the females also have to protect their young.

This shows that whether female badgers live longer than males is less clear than other species.

Fact: The territory of a female badger usually overlaps with multiple male badgers, leading them to compete and fight over her during mating season.

How Long Does It Take for A Badger To Reach Adulthood?

Most badger cub litters are born between March and April. During these first few weeks, badgers are blind and unable to move, depending entirely on their mother to survive. They do not even open their eyes until about a month after they are born.

Two American badgers looking to the right while standing on a grassy hill with earthmounds next to them and behind them.

They mainly survive by drinking their mother’s milk, but after around two months, the mother begins to wean them off and give them solid food. Even after that time, they are still considered children and remain with their mothers. 

At about four months, when fall hits, most badgers reach sexual maturity. At that point, the badgers go their separate ways as they are physically and mentally prepared to care for themselves. 

Do Other Species of Badgers Live Longer (or Shorter?)

American badgers have multiple cousins and subspecies of badgers that live worldwide, from the fearsome honey badgers to the sleek European badgers.

All these animals live in different conditions and have different abilities, some of them are not even that closely related despite their names. What this means is that their lifespans can differ from their American counterparts. 

Honey Badgers

The honey badgers, some of nature’s fiercest fighters, are probably also the most famous species of badger. These tough animals live up to 7-9 years in the wild on average, and this is due in part to their aggressive demeanor. 

Honey badgers have been known to fight off lions and other large predators who make the mistake of picking a fight. Most predators tend to avoid animals who can fight back.

While that is impressive, what is even more astounding is that honey badgers in captivity live up to 24 years and have reached ages over 30!

European Badgers

Across the Atlantic is the American badger’s European cousins, aptly named the European badgers. Both animals have a comparable lifespan, though the European badgers live slightly shorter. In the wild, these badgers live only about 2 or 3 years, but some have lived well past 14 years.

Interestingly, badgers can live almost ten times as long in captivity, and some badgers have been found to live as long as 20 years.

Unlike in the US, these badgers do not have as many natural predators and are mainly attributed to road accidents or overhunting. Thankfully, steps are being made to reduce the chances of this happening. 

Japanese Badgers

One of the lesser-known species of the badger is the Japanese badger, found mainly in the Japanese islands. These badgers live mainly in the remote woods of Japan, though they are occasionally spotted in suburban or rural areas.

Since these badgers live in less densely populated areas, they are less threatened by human activity. Because of that, their average lifespan is much higher than their cousins, with the average Japanese badger living up to 10 years old in the wild. 

While already impressive, they can live even longer in captivity, as many Japanese badgers grow up around 13 years old. If they are especially healthy or well-taken care of, Japanese badgers have been known to reach 19 years old.

Species NameAmerican BadgerHoney BadgerEuropean BadgerJapanese Badger
Average Lifespan (In the Wild)4-5 Years7-9 Years2-3 Years10 Years
Maximum Lifespan (In the Wild)14 YearsUnknown 14 YearsUnknown
Average Lifespan (In Captivity)16 Years24-26 Years16 Years13 Years
Maximum Lifespan (In Captivity)26 Years30 Years20 Years19 Years

Author: Quade Ong

Hello there, my name is Quade. I have been a writer for three years but an animal lover for over two decades. I grew up in one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, which has given me the blessing of seeing all sorts of beautiful animals. Now I strive to learn not just about the animals I am from, but those all over the world!

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