American badger and burrowing owl photos.

We know that American badgers, a species of special concern in California, live in the grasslands of many Midpen preserves and that the burrows they make are often used as winter homes for burrowing owls. But what we don’t know is how large their population is, where they are located and where they travel (identifying wildlife corridors and habitat fragmentation). This information will help us make science-based decisions to manage our grasslands and coordinate with other landowners so these animals can survive and thrive. To make this happen, Midpen is conducting a three-year badger and burrowing owl habitat study, which began in 2019.

As of August 2021, field work for this study is complete. Now, Midpen researchers are transitioning into the analysis and reporting phase, and we look forward to sharing the final results.

Watch this short video to see a burrowing owl using a badger burrow, the first documentation of this behavior in our study, and also see a badger close up:

Video produced by Tanya Diamond/Pathways for Wildlife.

Read our Studying the Secret Life of Badgers and Burrowing Owls newsletter article and watch The Secret Life of Badgers virtual event below, presented after the second year of research.

american badgerAmerican Badger
(Taxidea taxus, fossorial carnivore)
California species of special concern

  • Elongated black head with distinctive white stripes
  • Small ears, short legs and flattened gray body
  • Nocturnal and solitary; shelter in underground burrows
  • Large foreclaws adapted for digging (main diet is burrowing rodents)
  • Burrows have a distinctive soil mound on one side only and claw marks on the sides
  • Roam and hunt large home ranges (1,000+ acres), sleeping in burrows along the way

burrowing owlBurrowing Owl
(Athene cunicularia)
California species of special concern

  • Small, long-legged
  • Yellow eyes and bill, rounded head, no ear tufts
  • Mottled brown and white feathers
  • Active during the day
  • Stand on the ground or low fences
  • Jerk up and down when alarmed
  • Eat insects and small animals
  • Shelter in burrows often made by other animals, like badgers

Badger at Windy Hill captured via Midpen wildlife camera during this study.

Research Goals and Techniques

The goal of our research is to gain additional expertise in the management of grasslands for American badgers and burrowing owls, which will also benefit other related species, by:

  • Creating a detailed habitat suitability assessment for these animals that includes Midpen preserves and neighboring lands, as much as possible.
  • Determining the presence, use and status of these species within the available habitat.
  • Recommending specific management measures to protect and enhance this habitat.

The research techniques are being used in this study include:

  • Computer mapping and habitat pathway analysis
  • Field transect surveys and visual monitoring
  • Wildlife camera monitoring
  • Genetic analysis of hair (badgers) and fecal samples (badgers and owls)

This study is being conducted for Midpen by Pathways for Wildlife and the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory.

Watch this short video below for updates from the first year of research:


Please Report Sightings of Badgers and Their Burrows

Midpen has received reports from the public of sightings that have led to positive results and good data for the study. For example, one visitor who sent us photos of badger burrows at Long Ridge Open Space Preserve helped the researchers to pinpoint burrows and set up cameras at locations that had not yet been identified for the study

If you see a badger or burrowing owl in our region, alive or dead, we want to hear from you so that we have as much data as possible for analysis. Please send an email to Tanya Diamond ( with sighting details. This information will be added to our database to inform the study. For badger roadkill, we may be able to follow up to retrieve hair samples for genetic testing.

Burrowing owl

More Information and Resources