Badger visits store, exits tagged

By Mike
Moore
Editor

Dayton, Ohio — Wal-Mart is known for its blue-vested greeters
who meet customers at the front door, offering them a cart and
sometimes a smile.

But, when it’s a 25-pound badger greeting customers at the door,
a smile isn’t typically in the cards.

That’s exactly what happened recently when customers at a
Wal-Mart north of Dayton encountered a big badger that found
himself in the precarious position of unknowingly guarding the
front doors of the store.

“People were worried about him and some people didn’t even want
to walk past him, so they called a nuisance (trapper),” said Stan
Gehrt, an assistant professor of wildlife ecology at Ohio State
University. “The (trapper) came out, saw that it was a badger and
that’s when he called us.”

Gehrt was happy to get the call since he is currently involved
in a two-year study of badgers in the Buckeye state (Ohio Outdoor
News, April 28).

“It was in great shape, nothing wrong with him,” Gehrt said of
the wayward Wal-Mart mammal. “It is the strangest thing. He wasn’t
friendly at all. He was acting like a badger acts.”

Badgers are burrowing creatures, much like groundhogs, but much
more effective at it, Gehrt said. They are carnivores that feed on
smaller rodents and animals such as field mice, moles, and ground
squirrels.

The Wal-Mart transient was outfitted with a tracking radio
telemetry harness and turned loose in the wild. Grad student Jared
Duquette, a master’s candidate at the OSU school of environment and
natural resources, has been tracking the critter since its capture
and release.

“We tracked him for a few days and he did what badgers do so
many times in that he dug down and disappeared,” Gehrt said. “So,
we’re waiting for him to reappear.”

Duquette said he’s received signals from the badger’s
transmitter a couple of times, although it hasn’t been consistent
enough to track him just yet.

“These animals have relatively large home ranges compared to
animals of similar size and he has probably moved out of the area
to search for mates,” Duquette said.

The find was encouraging because the animal was alive, Gehrt
said, but picking one up in the Dayton area wasn’t surprising.
Researchers believe there are sizeable pockets of the muscle-bound
mammals in the largely metropolitan areas of Dayton and Toledo.
There are enough badgers in those two areas, researchers believe,
that traps have been set for them at various locales. Good numbers
of badgers are also suspected to reside in Union County in central
Ohio and there’s a small cluster in Delaware County, Gehrt
said.

“We definitely know there are badgers here in Ohio,” Gehrt said.
“We’re constantly picking up road kills that are turned into
us.”

Gehrt said researchers pick one up, typically as road kill, once
every couple of months.

“It’s happening frequently enough that we believe there may be a
population in the state,” he said. “The question is ‘where are they
if they’re in Ohio and are they a stable population or are they
transients passing through?’”

Observation numbers indicate that the badgers have increased in
Ohio over the past 10 years. What researchers aren’t sure about is
whether there are actually more badgers in the state in the last
decade or are have people just become more aware of them during
that time.

“So, we are hoping to put some transmitters on some (badgers) to
find out where they go and how long they live,” Gehrt said. “The
problem is these guys are always underground. Like a groundhog,
only worse. They move much greater distances.”

Duquette has put up posters detailing his need for badger
reports at state wildlife areas, DNR Division of Wildlife district
offices, and in Toledo Area Metroparks.

Badgers are classified in Ohio as a furbearer but there have
been no hunting or trapping seasons for them since at least 1991
because of their rarity.

If you see a badger, report exact locations of all sightings and
digging activity to Jared Duquette, School of Natural Resources,
Ohio State University, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, Ohio 43210-1085,
or e-mail him at duquette.6@osu.edu.

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