How Do American Badgers Defend Themselves (And When Do They Fight?)

When push comes to shove, many animals, including the American badgers will fight to protect themselves. While they aren’t the biggest or strongest animals in the prairie, it would be foolish to take these critters lightly; they can seriously injure you if you are not careful.

There are many reasons why American badgers might become aggressive. In the wilderness they will have to defend themselves, protect their territory and fight over mates. 

Join us in Floofmania as we explain these reasons and some of the signs to look out for when badgers are trying to protect themselves.

Do American Badgers Fight Other Animals?

Two American badgers, one emerging from a hole.

American badgers are known to be aggressive toward other animals if they feel threatened or if the animal is encroaching on a badger’s territory. This aggressive tendency means they have only a few natural enemies as other animals try to avoid them. 

When dealing with threats, badgers employ a variety of means to defend themselves. Aside from the normal ways of fighting with their claws and teeth, badgers also employ tricks like playing dead or spraying unpleasant odors, a little similar to skunks.

The exception to this is predators like mountain lions and bobcats which can overpower and eat American badgers. When confronted with threats that badgers can’t fight; they will instead choose to back away. 

Fact: If you think American Badgers are tough, wait till you see their African cousins, the honey badgers. These fierce animals are some of nature’s toughest critters and are known to take on animals several times their size including hyenas, wolves, and even lions!

Do American Badgers Attack Humans?

Although aggressive towards small animals, badgers are wearier around humans. Like other animals, they understand that humans can cause a lot of trouble and would rather avoid picking fights. After all, countless badgers have been the victims of habitat loss, hunting, and road accidents.

Instead of fighting, our clever friends chose to avoid humans by running away or hiding when we are around.

But while they generally avoid confrontation with us, there have been cases of badgers fighting and injuring people. Situations like this usually occur when badgers feel cornered or are protecting their young.

Whatever the reasons, they can still injure humans despite their smaller size so don’t try approaching them!

Do American Badgers Fight Each Other?

Fights between badgers are known to happen from time to time. American badgers are solitary animals, meaning they value their space and privacy. When they do encounter each other, they are rarely friendly. In many cases, these meetings result in fighting either over mates, food, or territory. 

Once they establish themselves in a territory, American badgers will fiercely defend it from anyone who tries to take it from them. If an animal, even a member of their species, thinks about intruding on a badger’s territory, they are in for a fight. 

The owner of the territory will try to chase the intruder away, either by scaring the other badger off or by attacking it physically. 

An American badger in the snow.

How Do American Badgers Protect Themselves?

When it comes down to a fight, badgers primarily use their teeth and claws to defend themselves. Being carnivores, badgers have sharp teeth that can pierce flesh and even break bones when they eat. In a fight, though, these teeth can just as easily be turned into a weapon and injure animals that challenge them.

The same is true for their claws which also make for useful weapons. Badgers spend most of their lives burrowing underground, and they accomplish this by digging with their powerful claws. 

Their claws can break apart dirt and scoop it aside to create tunnels, but in a fight, they use them to slash and scratch at rivals. Whatever they use they are sure to leave a mark!

Do American Badgers Have Other Self-Defense Techniques Than Fighting?

Although fierce, badgers do not only rely on scratching and biting. They have other techniques they can employ when they get into trouble, especially if they think that the threat isn’t something they can just fight off. Some common strategies include.

  • Intimidation
  • Running away
  • Playing dead
  • Release a foul musk

Before A Fight, American Badgers Rely on Intimidation To Scare Enemies

When facing a potential threat, badgers don’t try to attack right away and will first size up the intruder by trying to intimidate it first. If they can convince the other animal to back away without a fight, all the better. To do this, badgers rely on a series of sounds that might scare off attackers.

While they are generally noisy animals, to begin with, badgers are loudest when angry or preparing for a fight. They make a series of growls and snarls that are meant to cause their enemies to back down and these sounds can get louder and higher-pitched the more aggressive the badgers get. 

The most noticeable of these sounds is something called the kecker. This chattering sound becomes louder and more intense the longer it goes on. Badges usually make this sound when they are preparing to attack. If you hear something like this, know it is probably time to back away.

Fact: Juvenile badgers are also known to play fight and make growls and snarls. These tend to be higher pitched and less aggressive than adults, though.

American Badgers Sometimes Choose Flight Over Fight.

Two American badgers next to a pile of soil on a green field.

While American badgers are fierce, they aren’t crazy and won’t always fight if they don’t have to. When facing a danger much larger than themselves, badgers will choose to run away instead of attacking. Predators like humans and lions are too big to fight so they would rather not risk trouble by fighting.

The same is true when badgers are fighting over territory. While these situations sometimes lead to violence, in many cases one badger will back down and let their rival win. It all depends on whether or not they have the opportunity to escape and if it is worth fighting over.

Living underground also allows them to have a place where they can run and hide if something goes wrong. If they do find themselves in trouble, badgers can easily jump into their burrows where most predators can’t reach them. 

Fact: Some badgers have developed an alliance of sorts with coyotes in parts of the US. This works by coyotes chasing burrowing animals underground where badgers can catch them while badgers chase underground animals to the surface for coyotes to find. This relationship is called mutualism.

Do American Badgers Play Dead?

Some badgers have been known to play dead by curling into a ball and not moving. This strategy is meant to trick their attackers into leaving them alone. Badgers normally do this when they are injured to get out of further fighting. 

Badgers play dead in hopes that it might cause their attackers to leave since they are no longer a threat, allowing these clever animals to make their escape. This isn’t even something limited to one species either and both European and honey badgers also use this trick.

Fact: One unfortunate incident of a badger playing dead was in the UK where a badger was hit by a car. When the driver went to check on the badger, he was surprised to see that not only was she alive, but that she was curled into a ball and refusing to move as if dead. Thankfully the badger was brought to a vet where she made a full recovery.

American Badgers Can Spray Odors Like Skunks.

Like their cousins, the skunk, badgers also have scent glands that allow them to emit nasty odors to discourage their enemies.

When threatened, badgers will emit a foul-smelling musk from their scent glands similar to how a skunk does it. While not as foul as the scent of a skunk, it isn’t anything you’d want to be around much less get on you!

Two American badgers on a green field, one digging.

Do American Badgers Act Differently To Threats To Their Babies?

Although solitary animals, American badgers love their children and have strong parental instincts, especially mothers who watch their young. For the first few months of their lives, badger cubs depend on their mothers for protection and food. 

Mother badgers understand this and take their duties very seriously, defending their burrows and children from any attacker. What sets them apart is that badgers are noticeably more aggressive when it comes to their young. 

Whereas they might avoid humans under most circumstances, if they think you are threatening their kids, badgers others are more likely to attack. The same is true for other predators who get too closer to badger cubs.

Author: Quade Ong

Hello there, my name is Quade. I have been a writer for three years but an animal lover for over two decades. I grew up in one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, which has given me the blessing of seeing all sorts of beautiful animals. Now I strive to learn not just about the animals I am from, but those all over the world!

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