Most of us probably wouldn’t think of burying meat to preserve it. But the technique is a smart one in the wild, where scavengers abound. So when a male badger stumbled onto the carcass of a nearly 23-kilogram calf in Utah’s Grassy Mountains, he quickly set to work (see video above). The calf’s body was one of seven that researchers had strategically placed and targeted with video cameras to find out more about the winter habits of scavengers in the Great Basin. When the calf disappeared a week later, they thought a coyote or a mountain lion had dragged away the tempting remains. Only after reviewing the footage did they identify the culprit: an 11-kilogram male badger, who had spent 5 days digging to store the calf in his underground “refrigerator.” Many other species, from mountain lions to black bears, also stash their prey, usually covering the remains with branches and dirt. Badgers have been known to cache the bodies of smaller animals such as rodents and rabbits, but this is the first time they have been seen burying an animal larger than themselves, the researchers report today in Western North American Naturalist. The discovery suggests that badgers may play a previously unknown, but important, role in removing rotting or diseased carrion—helping ranchers, and themselves, in the process.
Science Magazine, 31 March 2017
This is amazing. I have so many questions. How does the badger know to do this? Is it instinctual? How much of it is deliberate, or, can I say, a conscious decision? Did you see he digs out underneath the calf so it falls deeper into the hole? It took him 5 days! Day and night! This badger works a lot harder than I ever will.
Thanks to Bill.