The Industrious Badger Can Bury an Entire Cow
Footage reminds scientists how little we know about badgers
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 2, 2017 11:37 AM CDT
Updated Apr 2, 2017 12:00 PM CDT
A badger buries the carcass of a 50-pound calf in Utah's Grassy Mountains in January of 2016.   (Evan Buechley)

(Newser) – This may not surprise those familiar with the decidedly NSFW honey badger: When a group of biologists at the University of Utah set out to study the behaviors of scavengers in the Great Basin Desert, they scattered the carcasses of seven calves in Utah's Grassy Mountains and figured their camera traps were about to document vultures and other avian predators, reports Phys.org. A week later, researcher Evan Buechley went out to check the carcasses in person and was disappointed to discover that one was missing altogether. He figured a mountain lion or coyote had run off with it. "Oh well, we've lost one after a week," he says he thought. Then he noticed the earth where he'd left the calf was disturbed, downloaded the camera's footage, and was amazed to discover that a badger had spent five days completely burying the 50-pound carcass.

As the researchers report in the journal West North American Naturalist, the badger spent two weeks intermittently stopping by to check on his prize and feast. Burying the calf achieved two goals: It kept it away from other scavengers while preserving it. Some footage shows the badger sitting lazily on top of the burrow. "Not to anthropomorphize too much, but he looks like a really, really happy badger, rolling in the dirt and living the high life," Buechley says. There is one account of a related mustelid (think weasels, wolverines, and martens) burying a black bear carcass under branches, but this is the first time a badger has been seen burying a creature well over its own weight, though another badger in the same study attempted to do the same. Not only is it an "industrious" feat, per Gizmodo, but a reminder how little is known about the "enigmatic" badger, as one of the researchers puts it. (Read about another unexpected scientific discovery.)

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