Saturday April 08, 2017

There was an old badger who buried a cow

Watch: Badger buries entire cow 0:47

Listen 7:00

Scavengers have a less than stellar reputation. They're considered shifty, and not entirely trustworthy.  

They live off death and decay, leading a hard-scrambled life in the shadow of more glamorous predators. 

But new research, and some never-before-seen behaviour, is giving one scavenger its moment in the spotlight. 

PhD student Evan Buechley used a camera-trap to capture footage of an American badger doing something quite extraordinary.

Watch the video below and you'll see a time-lapse of the badger excavating a hole beneath a calf carcass that is roughly four times its own size, which it then proceeds to bury. It also builds a den for itself right next to the cow. It took the badger about five days to complete all this work.

an American badger

An American badger rests on top of its winnings: a buried cow carcass. (Evan Buechley)

Why go to all the trouble? Buechley says it's a good supply of food for the badger - over a month's worth. Burying it in the cold winter ground in the desert also delays decomposition, much like a fridge does for our food.  

Here's the research paper in Western North American Naturalist describing the results: Subterranean caching of domestic cow (Bos taurus) carcasses by American badgers (Taxidea taxus) in the Great Basin Desert, Utah