A Brocklehurst resident was shocked to discover a badger was responsible for a mysterious hole she found last weekend in her backyard garden.
Cherie Bitz didn’t think the endangered animal lived in the Kamloops area, but on Monday evening the black and white Taxidea Taxus face popped out of the dirt to greet her before diving back into its abode.
Bitz captured their meeting on video, standing some five feet away from the badger, making its home where she had hoped to start planting.
“I never would have thought a badger,” said Bitz, a Brocklehurst resident of seven years. “It just doesn’t seem logical that there’d be a badger in my backyard. I know people that have lived here just as long as me and they say the same thing.”
Fewer than 350 of the animals are believed to still live in the province, according to the conservation group Badgers in BC.
Bitz initially discovered the hole in her yard about three days earlier and assumed either a mole or marmot dug it.
She filled in the hole, but it re-appeared.
“We could tell there was a tunnel. I stuck a stick in there — there was like a three-foot tunnel,” Bitz said.
After filling in the hole for the fourth time on Monday, Bitz noticed a snout starting to emerge from the dirt.
“I was actually standing there and saw this little head come popping out very slowly and curiously,” Bitz said.
She estimated its claws to be three or four inches long and figured the badger was about 20 inches long and 15 inches wide.
“He’s big,” Bitz said. “I don’t think they’re afraid of much.”
Bitz made some calls, concerned for the safety of the family dog and her two daughters, who have been keeping clear of the backyard.
The BC Conservation Officer Service told her badgers are a protected species and they scheduled a visit for Tuesday afternoon.
“If it is a girl and she has babies in there, obviously they’ll have to deal with that, too,” Bitz said, noting she was advised badgers don’t tend to stay in one place for too long.
Badgers are members of the weasel family and considered an at-risk animal in B.C., according to the Ministry of Environment.
They tend to live primarily in deep-soiled grassland, shrub-steppe and open stands of ponderosa pine or Douglas fir and can be found in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys, Thompson River, Nicola Valley and East Kootenay areas of the province.
Habitat loss through housing developments and intensive agriculture and deaths caused by road mortality, shooting and poisoning are contributors to the decline of badger populations in the province, according to Badgers in BC.
Thompson Rivers University professor of natural resource sciences Karl Larsen, who was in contact with Bitz about the badger, said the sighting isn’t terribly rare as this area is home to the B.C. badger, better known as the jeffersonii — a sub-species of the North American badger.
“There’s a number of these incidents every summer. A few years ago, we had a little spurt of them in Kamloops,” Larsen said.
What is interesting about this incident is that the badger seems to have embedded itself in a city block as opposed to being found on the outskirts of the city.
“For whatever reason, this badger found itself in the middle of Brock and found a nice loose soil garden and decided this was probably an easy place to dig a burrow, which it did,” Larsen said, noting badgers can dig burrows into more compact dirt such as logging roads.
While badgers have a reputation as being aggressive, Larsen said it’s not the same as having a bear in your backyard.
“It’s not an immediate threat to life and limb, so you’ve just got to respect it and give it distance,” Larsen said, noting badgers are quite capable of defending themselves if provoked.