When Badgers Attack

The past couple weeks have been filled with plenty of field days, inspections, and the inevitable trecks to unmarked sites. Always interesting, always an adventure, just sometimes that adventure is searching around in 100F for a site that in theory should no longer exist. The irony is palpable.

Last week, my fellow intern, Jess, and I took a break from our regular fieldwork to go look at the recovery of some former spill sites with Andy, the assigned NRS. We lucked out with the one mid-70s day that week, and the primary site was in a beautiful area of the field office. The site was almost completely recovered, and aside from a few small sections still catching up, you wouldn’t have known how large of an area had been affected, or how much bioremdiation and reclamation had been done. After inspecting the entire area we headed out to the next site, and on our way we encountered some road blocks.

Locked gates and dead end roads are always a possibility out here, and something I’m sure many, if not all, interns have experienced. We ran into a few on the way, though fortunately nothing that significantly impacted our route. Cows and sheep in the road are also a regular occurrence, so a stubborn old bull was par for the course. He certainly took his time, but we managed to make it through. However, as we made a turn further down the road and crested a hill, we came across perhaps the most interesting, and some might say formidable, obstacle yet: a mating pair of badgers.

Male badger as he crosses in front of our truck

Squarely in the middle of the road, and not at all pleased by our interruption, they immediately went on the offensive. The female took the lead – perhaps her young had just dispersed (or were in the process of doing so) and she still felt the need to protect and distract, or maybe she was just bothered by how rudely we intruded on their privacy.

Whatever the reason, she became vocal immediately, with what I can only describe as an intense combination of growling and hissing, and began to charge our truck. The male seemed satisfied that she could handle us, making a couple passes across the road before heading into the neighboring tall grass with some parting snorts.

Growling and hissing, the female turns for another charge

The female continued her attack with a persistence that was as impressive as it was intimidating, and as amusing as it was endearing. I loved her for it. After charging our front tires relentlessly, and pacing a few times parallel to the truck, she began lunging near the tailgate; each time running a little further down the road and looking back, maybe to see if we would follow. Eventually she was either satisfied our truck was no longer a threat, or that she’d successfully made her point, and she looped around and met up with the male who was still lingering on the edge of the road. They dropped below the ridge, and after getting out, I was able to watch them go into a burrow (or cete) about 10-15 yards down.

And so, 20 minutes after this had all begun, we headed to our next site.

– Christine

Buffalo, WY Field Office

Retreating before another change at our tires

The female loops around our truck as she heads back towards the male

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