American Badger in green field

Badger and Burrowing Owl Habitat Study

American Badger (Mike Bolte)

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.

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Natural Resources Protection and Restoration
Natural Resources
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illustration of a notebook with images of animals on cover
Research

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 by:

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

The research techniques that are being applied 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)

Pathways for Wildlife and the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory are conducting this study for Midpen.

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badger

American Badger (Taxidea taxus, fossorial carnivore)

A California species of special concern

  • Elongated head with distinctive forehead stripe and cheek patches.
  • Small ears, short legs and flattened gray body.
  • Nocturnal and solitary; shelter in underground burrows.
  • Large foreclaws adapted for digging and hunting burrowing rodents.
  • Burrows have a distinctive soil mound on one side only and claw marks on the inner walls.
  • Roam and hunt large home ranges sleeping in burrows along the way.
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Burrowing Owl on ground behind dry grass
Burrowing Owl (Lesley Hamamoto)

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

A 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

Videos

See wildlife camera footage, find out about the secret life of badgers and more!

How to Report Sightings of Badgers and Burrowing Owls

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 new burrows and set up cameras at those locations.

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 email Tanya Diamond (tanya@pfwildlife.com) 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.