A rare badger, believed to be one of only 30 remaining in the Okanagan Valley, has been spotted at the Osoyoos Desert Centre.
Based on the range of the animal, the centre says it’s from the Taxidea taxus jeffersonii subspecies, which is classified as endangered by the Government of Canada and is red-listed by the B.C. Conservation Data Centre.
Desert centre manager Leor Oren says there was a sighting in September, but it wasn’t until early October that guests of the interpretive facility were able to photograph the burrowing mammal.
“It was 99 per cent until we got the actual photographic proof, and now we’re very happy to say that we definitely have a badger on premises,” said Oren.
“Seeing one is quite rare and quite exciting. Our post on Facebook just exploded. We’ve never seen anything like this.”
This subspecies of the short and stout carnivores roam the dry southern Interior of B.C.
The abandoned burrows of badgers are said to provide key nesting sites for wildlife like the burrowing owl.
“Other species like cotton tails or rodents like to use the burrows of the badger, so they just increase biodiversity everywhere they go,” said Oren.
According to a recovery strategy report from the B.C. government, based on trading records there has been a long-term decline in badger populations since the 1920s.
Threats to badger population
That 2008 report estimated there were only 230 to 340 badgers in B.C. Oren says there are currently around 300 in the province.
The B.C. Ministry of Environment lists several threats to the animal’s survival, including illegal or accidental trapping, reduced food supply, vehicle traffic and loss of grassland habitat.
“People used to think that they dig little burrows that cattle fall into and break their legs. It was later found out it’s actually the gophers that dig those little burrows, and badgers actually eat gophers, so we [have] to protect the badgers.”
Oren is hopeful that their new guest will stay within the safety of the desert centre, but due to their transient nature he is doubtful that will happen.
“I just wish the badger [would] stick around, dig lots of burrows and just increase our biodiversity at the desert centre,” Oren said.
The Ministry of Environment says land managers can help the badger population by maintaining large tracts of grassy land and monitoring the use of rodenticides. Landowners should be encouraged to be more sympathetic to the animals, and the shooting or trapping of a badger should be reported, the ministry says.