What Do American Badgers Eat? (All Questions Answered)

The American badger (Taxida taxus) is not at the top of the food chain, but it’s an extremely versatile animal when it comes to its diet.

Badgers have very few natural predators, and actually sometimes consume other smaller-sized predators. They are primarily meat-eaters but can also eat various plants, fruits, and mushrooms when an easy meal presents itself.

These stocky critters from the Mustelidae family will eat almost anything—alive or otherwise.

Buckle up as there’s a lot to talk about when it comes to the American badger’s eating habits, food preferences, and whatnot.

Are Badgers Carnivores, Herbivores, or Omnivores?

Technically, American badgers are omnivores. They are animals that eat a variety of foods from other animals to plants and fungi. 

Their food sources widely vary in types, nutritional levels, and size.

Speaking of size, did you know that badgers eat both the tiniest of insects, as well as animals that are much larger than themselves, like a cow?

Omnivores like the badgers are a huge factor when it comes to maintaining balance in the wild, specifically in the grasslands ecosystem. They’ll keep the populations of other animals in check.

When there are badgers around, you can depend on them to keep the population of rodents, snakes, insects, and other rapidly growing species at optimum levels.

Badgers are animals you can count on when it comes to owning a buffet table. They’ll eat almost anything!

Are Badgers Secondary or Tertiary Consumers? (Do They Prey On Carnivore Animals?)

You can call the American badger a primary, secondary, or tertiary consumer. It belongs to all three categories because the American badger just eats everything that it can get its paws on.

When badgers eat plants and seeds, they are primary consumers. Most of the time, however, they are secondary consumers as they eat plant-eating animals like gophers, squirrels, rodents, or even insects and worms. 

Eating other small predators, or meat-eating animals, like snakes and baby foxes places them under the tertiary consumer label.

What’s The American Badger’s Favorite Food?

The American badger is the most carnivorous among the badger species. Their favorite food is burrowing animals that they can catch right away. They primarily prey on smaller mammals like ground squirrels, prairie dogs, marmots, and pocket gophers.

They also eat quite a bit of insects and earthworms, but unlike the European badger, these don’t represent the biggest part of their food intake.

The badger loves to dig out these small mammals in their burrows. One interesting thing about the American badger is its ability to take over the prey’s den and use it as its own. Perhaps that’s the reason why burrowing animals are on the top of the badger’s food list.

Are Badgers Scavengers? Do They Eat Carrion?

A scavenger is an animal that feeds on carcasses. American badgers are mainly live-prey hunters. On certain occasions, however, they do store their food and feed on it at a later time. 

They sometimes store large carcasses until they start to decay. Fortunately, these badgers are animals that don’t leave their food to waste. They’ll continue to feed on the spoiled meat—maggots and all!

American badgers are quite the problem-solvers.  Whenever they stumble upon animal carcasses, left by other predators, they’ll bury them if it’s too much to eat in one go, and save them to eat for a later meal. 

This is a smart technique used for a couple of reasons. First, burying the carcass keeps the meat fresh (or fresher) due to the lower ground temperature. Call it a natural refrigerator if you will. Second, it hides the scent of the carrion from other scavengers. Badgers are not into sharing their food with other animals, that’s for sure.

Badgers are actually known for burying quite big carcasses, and saving a dead animal the size of a cow is not unheard of.

American badgers also build temporary hideouts near food that they can’t consume in one sitting. If you spot a large dead animal during your hikes, expect that an American badger is camping somewhere near their free meal. 

Are Badgers Cannibals? Do They Sometimes Eat Other Badgers?

Reports of cannibalism in badgers are rare. It’s important to note, however, that cannibalism occurs in the wild and among a lot of carnivorous species. These animals will eat their own if the situation calls for it.

Most cases of cannibalism among badgers are related to eating their young or feeding on the carcass of another dead badger. Such occurrences are said to be due to severe starvation or perhaps, the animals just don’t want to waste the nutrients the meat of their deceased fellow badger provides.

American badgers do not go to cannibalism as long as there are other sources of food available. 

Is It OK To Feed Badgers In The Wild, Or In The Garden?

We would want to emphasize that feeding an American badger in the wild or in your garden is not recommended. 

These are wild animals that have developed efficient hunting and food-scavenging behavior over time, and by feeding them, you might make the badger more dependent on your food than on its own abilities, which might gradually make it worse off. 

Feeding wild badgers may be an enjoyable activity but doing so can cause problems for you and the badgers. 

If you still intend to feed wild badgers, avoid coming into contact with them directly. Instead, just leave the food and wait for their foraging instinct to kick in. You may, however, consider putting up a wildlife camera! (link to amazon).

Only feed the wild badgers if you observe that there is a scarcity of food in the area, because they simply may not need your food. 

Extreme hot and cold environments can prompt the need for humans to intervene to ensure the survival of individual badgers. What you have to do is to provide water and some food they would normally eat.

It’s a particularly bad idea to feed American badgers that venture into suburban neighborhoods, because you run the risk of making them dependent on humans, but also keeping them around and creating a problem for the whole neighborhood. 

Instead, call the local wildlife conservation agency in your area to handle the critters.

What Should I Feed Wild Badgers?

Feeding wild animals, especially during heat waves and winter seasons, can help them survive through the more difficult periods. 

American badgers are nocturnal animals, so it is best to feed them at dusk.

However, there are important precautions that you should remember. 

  1. Don’t feed the badgers directly from your hand. Always keep your distance.
  2. Don’t feed the badger or any wildlife with processed food. 
  3. Don’t bring your pets along or allow them to come into contact with the badger.
  4. Don’t give the badger bread or milk as it will cause stomach problems.
  5. Remove uneaten food in the morning, so as to not attract unwanted pests.
  6. Don’t forget the fresh water to go along with the food!!

American Badgers Eat Plenty of Rodents And Small Animals

Rodents such as ground squirrels, groundhogs, rabbits, and other small animals are among the American badger’s favorite prey. They’ll search through their burrows and underground tunnels in search of these animals. 

Among the American badger’s favorite foods are marmots, rabbits, groundhogs, other squirrels, voles, rats, mice, gophers, and other animals they can grab from their underground dens.

American Badgers Eat Many Reptiles

Reptiles make up quite a big portion of the American badger’s diet. When the opportunity presents itself, they won’t shy away from indulging in a quick lizard or snake meal when crossing paths with reptiles. 

Most mammals keep their distance from these reptiles, especially the venomous and poisonous ones. The American badger, however, is not scared by such threats. In fact,  badgers are resistant to the venom of some snakes. Badgers eat reptiles like geckos, skinks, other lizards, and snakes quite often.

Reptiles consist of 25% of a badger’s diet.

In South Dakota, the American badger, by being the most important predator of rattlesnakes, plays a part in controlling the population of these venomous snakes. 

Do Badgers Catch and Eat Wild Birds?

While birds of flight are too agile for an American badger to hunt, they are still on the list of the animal’s diet. Badgers are known to be opportunistic predators, and they won’t hesitate to turn an injured bird or carrion into a part of their dinner plans when they stumble upon one in the wild.

The Shoco, or burrowing owl, oftentimes crosses paths with the American badger. Both animals share similar habitats. Their behaviors are also perfect for a hunter-prey relationship. 

The owl is active during the day and rests in burrows at night. American badgers go on hunting sprees during the night searching for animals living in burrows. The badger oftentimes hits the jackpot on the defenseless sleeping shoco, as its next meal.

Do Badgers Eat Poultry?

Badgers do eat poultry. They occasionally visit chicken pens and coops like they’re doing a drive-through at your favorite fast-food chain. The badger will usually grab one bird at a time, feed on it, and then come back for the second course.

The same can also be said for other domesticated birds like ducks, turkeys, and geese. A badger can go into a feeding frenzy when they encounter these animals. 

And once the American badger has gotten a taste for eating your poultry, there are very good chances that it’ll keep coming back.  So there is good reason for concern as soon as some of your chickens start to go missing.

It’s therefore highly recommended to look into ways to deter American badgers from coming near your poultry, and to improve the enclosure that you keep them in, so the badgers can’t get to them.

Will A Badger Eat Cats, Small Dogs, or Other Pets?

American badgers do not distinguish pets from any other animal they hunt as food. If your pet is too weak to run or fight off the attacker, then they’re a free meal for the badger. 

However, healthy dogs and cats usually stay away from the badger knowing the latter is a rather fierce opponent. Pet animals rarely try to square off with badgers and instead stay out of the way of the animal.

Can A Badger Eat Farm Animals and Livestock?

Although they have their staple menu of wild animals, livestock like lambs, sheep, goats and even cows are not off the table for the American badger—that is if can grab one. Large livestock is generally safe from badgers, who will only eat from animals that are dead already.

The American badger is a solitary hunter and will only hunt and prey upon animals that they can grab and take down on their own, so for the most part, they won’t go for animals bigger than themselves.

Do Badgers Eat Bigger Predators?

American badgers try to stay out of the way of bigger predators. Encounters with bobcats, golden eagles, cougars, bears, and wolf packs are very risky for the badger. These large animals are the badger’s natural predators. However, badgers won’t think twice about feeding on these animals if they find them already dead in the wild.

Smaller predators like foxes and raccoons can be hunted down by badgers, but badgers mostly go for their young. The downside for the badger when trying to hunt for other predators is the risk of getting injured. Foxes have quick reflexes and sharp teeth and claws and are tough opponents for the badger. That is why badgers zoom in on the pups instead as their target prey.

Raccoons, on the other hand, can be fierce fighters as well. They may be tough in fights but the badger will get what it wants most of the time. Raccoons, however, are usually smart enough to realize that, and will just scurry away.

While American badgers aren’t big animals, they are stubborn and relentless hunters that won’t stop until they get their meal for the day. This doesn’t rule out going for other predators, even though they’ll surely think twice before attacking someone their own size or bigger.

Do Badgers Eat Fish?

Fish is not part of the badger’s regular diet. The American badger does not have the skills to catch fish in its natural environment, but encountering a dead fish during explorations will still prompt the badger to eat it. Hey, that’s a free meal, after all!

Do Badgers Eat Everything From Their Prey, Bones, Intestines, and All?

Like any other carnivore, the American badger will eat anything it can swallow. When they are in carnivore mode, they rip their prey into smaller pieces before swallowing them. Yes, badgers eat everything they can swallow—bones, intestines, and all.

The badger will only leave the body parts that are too big to swallow, such as the skull and large bones. The badger also sometimes leaves its prey’s skin, fur, or feathers.

Do Badgers Eat Hedgehogs?

There are no hedgehogs in the wild in North America, so there’s no chance for an American badger to meet one in nature. The badger’s relatives in other parts of the world, though, are known to hunt and eat hedgehogs.

Nevertheless, knowing the American badger, we are confident to say that it will be very hard for it to resist a hedgehog snack. Hedgehogs may be a little difficult to eat because of their spikes, but like other badger species on the other side of the world, our native badger can surely find a way to get through the prey’s stingy spines.

How Does A Badger Eat A Hedgehog?

Badger species from other parts of the world have the hedgehog on their meal list. The hedgehog’s spines serve as a natural defense against predators but still don’t stand a chance against the badger.

As the hedgehog curls up and exposes its spines as its defense mechanism, the badger will either go directly in for a bite without worrying about the spikes or push the hedgehog a bit around, forcing its snout nearer to the hedgehog’s unprotected belly where it can much easier sink its teeth in.

How Many Hedgehogs Do Badgers Eat?

Hedgehogs are small animals while the badger is a voracious eater. One hedgehog surely is not enough for a badger’s one square meal. Badgers in Europe are said to eat multiple hedgehogs every day. Researchers are concerned that the hedgehog population has greatly declined in areas where there are badgers.

Do American Badgers Eat Insects?

Badgers will eat and consume any insect they find in their surroundings. They may encounter insects as they search for earthworms, their staple food. These versatile eaters, however, wouldn’t mind adding some variety to their combo meals.

Scorpions, spiders, beetles, and other ground insects will be surely grabbed by the badger as they forage the area.

Will Badgers Raid Wasp’s or Bee’s Nests?

Wasps and bees, like other insects, are among the badger’s favorite delicacies. Honeybees, their larvae, and even honey are not spared by the American badger. These insects are just snacks to them. One raiding badger is enough to decimate and consume an entire wasp or bee colony—including the nest.

Like snake bites, badgers are also resistant to bee stings. They can take as many as a couple of hundred stings and survive the pain without permanent damage. 

Do Badgers Eat Snails, Slugs, Frogs, and Toads?

The American badger’s appetite and choice of food also vary depending on the time of the year. During the spring when plants and flowers bloom; small amphibians, mollusks, and invertebrates like frogs, toads, skinks, salamanders, snails, and slugs are also abundant. 

The start of the new spring season provides new choices for the badger’s diet. A wide variety of plants and animal species are available round-the-clock for the badger to take. 

There’s also a slight behavioral change among nursing female badgers during this season. Female badgers tend to be more active during the day than at night. They will spend the daylight hours foraging for food and then spend the night with their young.

Do Badgers Eat Vegetables and Produce?

American badgers do eat vegetables whenever available, which means that your vegetable gardens aren’t necessarily spared by the badger. 

If you notice badgers building tunnels and burrows near farmlands, this shows you that they have found a rich food source that can last them for some time.

Areas with vegetables also attract other animals like rodents, squirrels, and insects. This provides an optimum situation for the opportunistic badger to fill its tummy as it chooses. Who doesn’t want a meat party with a salad bar in one place?

Badgers love to eat pumpkins, onions, tomatoes, carrots, legumes, and fruits, among others. Root vegetables like potatoes and beets are unattractive to the badger when raw and unprocessed but will eat them once cooked. What a choosy bunch of animals!

Will Badgers Eat Fruit?

If the American badger had a motto, it would be: “As long as you can reach it, you can eat it”.

They definitely eat anything they can reach, including fruits. Climbing fruit trees, however, is not among the badger’s greatest skills. 

Badgers have been reported to climb trees as high as about six feet, but that’s it. Their short, muscular legs and non-retractable claws are powerful enough to be able to climb trees at a certain height, but badgers don’t feel at home in the canopies. 

Moreover, their capacity to pick hanging fruits straight from the tree is doubtful.

Windfall fruits they find on the ground are treats for badgers. Oranges, grapes, apples, and pears, but also a fruit that grows closer to the ground, like melon are among the fruits a badger will eat. 

An American badger also won’t shy away from bananas or other more exotic fruits if they happen to come upon someone’s forgotten lunch out there.

Will Badgers Seek Out And Eat Wild Berries?

Omnivores like badgers will definitely eat wild berries. Berries are widely available at the end of summer and the start of fall, and they’re great additions to the badger’s year-round menu. 

In addition, most wild berries grow on short trees and shrubs that the badger can easily reach. Badgers are known to build their setts (dens) near these kinds of bushes.

Here’s a list of berries that American badgers enjoy eating: 

  • Blackberries
  • Yew berries
  • Sloes
  • Elderberries
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries

Do Badgers Eat Mushrooms?

Badgers do, indeed, eat wild mushrooms.

The American badger, as a nocturnal creature oftentimes forages for earthworms in damp, dark, humid areas where mushrooms grow. It surely wouldn’t want to miss chomping on the edible fungi.

Badgers do not necessarily seek out mushrooms for their meals but will eat them if available.

Can A Badger Eat Nuts?

The American badger is not a picky eater. It will eat anything that its snout can reach. The badger’s sharp teeth and claws are tools they can use to crack and open even the toughest nuts. 

Yes, badgers are nut eaters. They have a long list of preferred nuts to crack which includes the following:

  • Walnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Acorns
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Monkey Nuts

While all of the above aren’t necessarily found in the American wild, an American badger will be more than happy to eat some exotic nuts left by a human in the wild.

Can A Badger Eat Human Food?

Badgers will eat almost anything they can get their snout on, including human food. Humans and badgers, both omnivores, have a similar food preference list. 

There have been reports of badgers foraging dumpsters and eating leftover food.  They seem to have a liking for bread, raisins, cheese, jam sandwiches, chocolate, peanut butter, and more.

Be warned though, that badgers should not eat processed food and dairy products. These types of food are not part of the badger’s natural diet in the wild, and the animals’ body processes are not tuned to break down and digest such food types. 

Too much salt in the food could also pose some dangers to the badger, and very sugary things like chocolate are just as bad for badgers as they are for us.

The excess salt, sugar, fats, and certain additives found in processed food can be dangerous for the badger.

If you’re set on feeding wild badgers, try to just feed them with food that is similar to what the animal would eat in the wild, like vegetables, nuts, fruits, and fresh or lightly-cooked, un-seasoned meat. 

Will A Badger Eat Pet Food Like Dog or Cat Food?

As stated a couple of times already: The American badger will eat anything, and that includes pet food. Dry or wet pet food can certainly provide nourishment to the badger. 

Feeding wild badgers with pet food should only be done in severe cases of food scarcity or if you encounter a badger cub who hasn’t developed yet the necessary hunting and foraging skills to survive.

What About Weird Stuff Like Leather Jackets – Do Badgers Eat Them?

That is a weird question, indeed. If you’re asking if the American badger would take a nibble on Uncle Bob’s leather jacket which he usually wears to look cool, there have been no reports of any badger doing that. They won’t eat his sunglasses either.

If we’re talking about the leatherjackets—the larvae of crane flies (daddy-longlegs) — then yes, American badgers do eat these insects. These larvae are about a third of an inch long and live underground. Badgers are known to dig holes on lawns and turf in search of leather jackets.

But they generally don’t eat your clothes, so you can stop locking your closets!

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