American Badgers In The Winter (Do They Hibernate, Migrate, or Change Their Rhythm)?

Have you ever wondered how American badgers survive winter? American badgers are mostly known for their fur and the holes they dig, but we don’t really know much about their behavior, especially during winter.

Keep reading as Floofmania dives deeper into the American badger’s winter behavior and get to know these cute animals more!

Do Badgers Hibernate In Winter?

American badgers do not really hibernate during winter but they do stay as inactive as possible.

How do they do this? American badgers sleep for days, even weeks, at a time and occasionally go into a state of torpor.

Torpor is a state of decreased or very minimal physiological activity marked by reduced body heat, reduced metabolic rate, and reduced heart rate. Many animals, that don’t specifically hibernate, use torpor as a means to conserve energy in winter.

Where Do Badgers Go In Winter?

American Badgers go underground in their burrows during winter to keep themselves warm and protected from the cold, as well as to stay out of sight from potential predators.

Usually, they prefer varying habitats, from forests to open woodlands and fields, but during winter, they stay underground to wait out the season.

They use their existing burrows or find uninhabited ones, and in some instances, they dig new ones. American badgers are excellent digging machines and can dig tunnels rapidly through the soil.

A typical burrow, or sett, can go as low as 8-9 feet below the ground and can consist of approximately 30 feet of interconnecting tunnels and chambers, where the animal can stay out of the cold weather above-ground.

How Active Are Badgers In The Winter And What Do They Do?

American badgers are not active in the winter because they try to conserve reserved body fats to survive the season. 

They primarily stay inactive and sleep for days or weeks and often go into deep torpor for up to 29 hours at a time. When in torpor, American badgers keep their temperatures very low and their heart rate to about half the normal rate.

When they are not sleeping or in torpor, they stay rested, cozy in their dens eating an occasional meal. Their main method to survive winter is conserving their body fats so they stay warm and healthy. It sounds like semi-hibernation, don’t you think?

Do Badgers Come Out At All In The Winter?

American badgers hardly ever come out of their setts during winter but it is not completely unheard of. Occasionally, they do venture out, when they have run out of stored food and they are extremely hungry.

If you see an American badger outside during winter, that usually means they have no choice and it is absolutely necessary for them to do so.

This is especially true for female badgers who are pregnant and need more nourishment than usual. This does not happen often though because badgers take the time and effort to prepare and store food for winter.

What Do Badgers Eat In The Winter?

American badgers are primarily carnivorous but they can adapt to other food choices when necessary. They are not picky eaters and eat mostly the food they have stored during summer and fall which are mostly roots, vegetables and other alternative foods that do not rot and can survive the winter.

American badgers normally eat insects, ground-nesting birds, snakes, other reptiles, amphibians, and even fish. They do not store meats in their burrows, however, because they rot, instead, they bring in crops, usually root crops that last longer for the harsh winter. 

When food is scarce and they are extremely hungry, American badgers will easily adapt and eat whatever is available including fruits and vegetables.

How Long Do Badgers Stay Inactive In Winter?

As mentioned earlier, American badgers are mostly inactive in the winter and mostly stay asleep for several days at a time. They sometimes go into a state of torpor which can last up to 29 hours keeping their heart rates, body heat, and metabolism very low, conserving body fats.

As long as they have enough reserved fats, American badgers do not eat or drink and spend the majority of their winter in resting mode.

Do Badgers Migrate To Warmer Regions in the Winter? 

Winter migration is not a habit of American badgers, they are not known to relocate to warmer regions in the winter. They stay in their preferred habitats, usually underground, and wait until winter is over.

American badgers are highly adaptable to any weather and are almost always prepared for laying low for a long winter.

Because they do not migrate, they prepare their burrows and store as much food as possible so they can stay warm and well-fed in the winter. They may not hibernate but they put in as much work and preparation as other animals that do!

How Do Badgers Stay Warm in Winter?

The setts, or burrows of the American badgers are dry and filled with bedding materials like leaves, twigs, grass, and other things that help them keep warm.

Their burrows also have several chambers and go deep underground, up to 8-9 feet. While still not particularly warm, this depth stays free of frost, ice, snow, and wind, and is much more comfortable than being outside.

Usually, badgers stay in different setts when they are active because they assign different uses for each den; they have food storage, a nursery, living quarters, etc.

During winter, they choose one den, pile up all the food they can find, and stay there the entire winter so they do not have to move when they need to feed. Very convenient, huh?

American badgers also fatten up in the summer and fall to put on the extra weight that will not only provide nourishment but will also help keep them warm and insulated during winter. It sounds like they are doing everything animals that hibernate do. I guess we can safely say, American badgers semi-hibernate. Don’t you agree?

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