Badger Trapping - Part I
In areas where badgers are legal to trap, some good money can be made on them. I've lived in badger country for over 25 years, and have caught them in a variety of terrains by many different methods. I have to admit that the bulk of my badgers are caught by accident. They simply can't seem to stay away from a good canine or 'cat set. At the current prices of well prepared, late winter caught skins from the better sections, they're a welcome addition to the catch. I've had badger furs caught in February bring three times as much as coyotes caught at the same time.

Badgers, like all predators, will be found around their food base. In some areas this will be ground squirrels, mice, pocket gophers, and in the West, prairie dogs. I've noticed over the years that they seem to be more common in areas with soils that are easy to dig in, and I'm sure that coincides with the presence of their prey base too. Prairie dog towns will cover literally miles of rangeland in our area, and I've taken as high as 15 badgers out of one large (probably 15 sections) "dog town" over the course of a few months. They were mostly caught in coyote sets. In comparison, the rest of the locations on that particular line produced three or four badger for the winter, total. This clearly indicates that they will be found around their food source.

I've never seen where they are really "thick", population-wise, but they do seem to occur in loose colony- type populations. Many times I've caught a badger double at a good coyote location, worked hard to get the dug up sets back to a usable state, and returned to have two more badgers, and even bigger mounds of dirt. They're also very nomadic, especially the larger males, which can really put on some serious miles when looking for a new home with plenty of hibernating rodents to live on for a few months. I'd guess that the areas I've trapped have probably averaged about 50/50 groups vs. the loners. Like old ridgerunner coons, these lone, wandering male badgers are almost always bigger than the average ones found in the loose family groups.

Badgers are truly unique animals, and I've seen them do some interesting things over the years. One time, I was running a fall fox line through some mixed range/stubble field country. I had to drive right through the ranch house yard to get into the pastures and fields beyond it, and the rancher waved me in. They were in the process of gathering and shipping the lamb crop, and had come across an older ewe that had died a day or two before. Something was already eating on it, and he asked me to take a look.

The sheep was easy to find as the white wool looked like a snow bank in the middle of 1,000 acres of golden stubble. Wool was scattered around, and there was evidence of fox and skunks feeding on the carcass. I don't like to set too close to a carcass in these situations, as the birds will find them too. I avoid unwanted raptor catches at all costs, and might even decide to not set up a large bait if I think there's even a slight chance of a problem.
Over the years, I have evolved into using three sets in a triangle pattern at large baits, with one at each point of the triangle. I like to stay away a minimum of 50 yards, and really haven't seen where it reduces your chances of connecting on canines a bit. I simply look for a decent backing, like a wheat stubble clump, grass strip, or cow pie. Basically, anything to keep the animal from approaching from the back easily. (They might try to anyway).

I set the spot up, and I think I had a fox or two every check, and the usual skunks, of course. I remember a triple on fox one morning, after the spot got real 'hot' with fox and skunk smells. I couldn't imagine where the fox kept coming from, but I wasn't looking this gift horse in the mouth.

After a few weeks, as I approached the set location something seemed out of the ordinary. I really didn't tune into it as I was in the mode of getting the catches dispatched and in the back of the pickup and the sets remade. After I pulled away I realized what was wrong. 'My' sheep was gone!

All sorts of things went through my head as I swung the truck around for a closer look. I couldn't imagine what would lug off a three-quarter eaten, partially decayed sheep carcass. I walked over to where the sheep had been, and my foot sank into fresh dirt. Then I realized that a badger had dug a hole under the carcass, and pulled the remaining meat, wool, and bones down into his "pantry". I didn't argue with him over it, as the sets were still catching fox. I've often wondered why he hadn't got caught too.

I've seen similar things many times over the years. I've been trapping off a snowmobile a lot the last few years, out of necessity. Our winters have been severe, and our local weathermen haven't read the global warning threats. Some days, during over 50 miles of cross-country driving, I'll see a small congregation of badger tracks. Their short stride and wide stance make their tracks very easily to spot. Many times I've stood up on the seat of the sled or 4-wheeler and spotted fresh diggings. A closer look might reveal a buried antelope or deer carcass. Tracks of various ages showed that the badger had been in the area for some time, making good use of the food source. In most cases, though, the digging will be where a badger has dug into a batch of ground squirrels or prairie dogs.

I've never witnessed it in action, but I've seen enough young lamb remains with badger tracks around them to suspect that they would also prey on very young fawns if the opportunity arose. Birds' nests and small chicks are made short work of too. They don't seem to be picky, and they aren't really what you'd consider 'wary'. Combine these factors with the fact that their sign is easy to identify, and it illustrates why they're easy to trap.