A camera has recorded how an American badger did something incredible. According to the images, badgers are capable of burying an entire cow.

Scientists are astonished due to the unknown digging skills of badgers. They set up camera traps and seven calf carcasses in the Utah’s Grassy Mountains with the aim of seeing which scavenger descended on the animals.  They were expecting maybe eagles or coyotes, but they had never predicted the current outcomes.

A badger burying a cow
The outcomes of this research were published in the journal the Western North American Naturalist. Image credit: Nature.

“I was expecting we were going to get a lot of vultures and maybe some eagles and coyotes and different things,” said Evan Buechley, a doctoral candidate at the University of Utah and co-author of the study. “But then this badger stole the show.”

An extraordinary turn of events 

The cameras and the seven calf carcasses were left in Utah’s Grassy Mountains in January last year. The suspects arose when Buechley checked upon the carcasses to discover that one of them had gone missing. However, he didn’t expect the carcass to be buried. The researchers checked the cameras, and the images revealed an extraordinary turn of events. A badger dug and buried the calf. The little animal started to work as soon as it discovered the carcass.

A badger burying a cow
In general, badgers are nocturnal animals, but the images show that this creature was digging in the middle of the day too. Image credit: Nature.

“The ground was disturbed but I didn’t expect it to be buried,” said Buechley. “I was pretty bummed because it was a ton of work to drive these carcasses out into the desert.”

The time-lapse video created from the pictures revealed that the badger was digging around the calf until the corpse sunk into the dirt. Then the badger covered it with soil to hide it. Before the carcass was completely covered, the badger took a piece of the calf, as it looked directly into the cameras. It was shocking and exciting, according to the researchers.

It wasn’t an isolated behavior

Buechley wondered if this was a natural and unknown characteristic of badgers or if it was just a weird act carried out by a single badger. To find more clues, Buechley checked the other carcasses, and he saw that another one of them had been almost entirely buried. One of the legs of the calf was sticking out; it had been secured to the ground with a stake. The cameras showed that this calf was buried by a badger, but it was a different one.

“The second one was really informative because it meant it wasn’t a one-off, freak behavior,” said Buechley

Buechley confessed that they didn’t go there to study the behavior of badgers. They made the experiment hoping to find out something more about coyotes or birds, but at the end, badgers turned out to be very useful for their research.

This is the first time badgers are seen burying an animal bigger than themselves 

Before this experiments, little did the scientists know about the incredible digging prowess of badgers. Certainly, badgers had been seen burying small animals before. However, this is the first time a badger is captured digging to bury a carcass several times bigger than its size. Calves weigh about 23 kilograms, while female badgers weight about 6.3 kilograms on average, while male badgers weight about 8.6 kg.

Badgers dig animals because, in the absence of a refrigerator, they do what any other scavenger would do to keep the food as fresh as possible. Given the size of the calf, the badgers can be sustained from it for several months, avoiding the carcass decomposition.  As well, by doing this, badgers protect their food from other scavengers.

Given the size of the calf, badgers can sustain from a corpse for several months, avoiding the carcass decomposition. As well, they can protect their food from other scavengers.

A Badger
“The ground serves as a way to keep the carcass cool, so it inhibits decomposition, so [the badgers] can feed upon it and totally monopolize that really important food source,” said Buechley. Image credit: Dream of Animals.

Scientists were aware of the abilities badgers had to bury its future meal. However, they had seen badgers burying rabbits, rodents, and animals with a small size.  After burying the calf, the badgers built a den next to it, and right there both badgers used to sleep and eat. They spent about 11 days continuously underground. They abandoned the sites 41 and 52 days after their initial discovery of the carcasses.

This discovery, not only leads to believe that badgers have more skills that what it was previously thought but as well, scientists are now considering that badgers are responsible for the disposal of more animal carcasses that what it was formerly thought. Therefore, they might have greater effects on the food supply of other animals. In conclusion, scientists noticed that there are a lot of things left to learn about badgers and the way these creatures keep their food protected.

Source: The Guardian