Friday, 6 April 2012

American Badger digs up two Hog-nosed Snakes!

American badgers are an extremely rare and endangered member of the weasel family found mainly in southwestern Ontario. There are thought to be less than 200 of these amazing creatures left in Ontario, with one of their strongholds being Norfolk County. They are a powerful excavator, digging up various prey items like groundhogs, rabbits, rodents, and other mammals. They also sleep and give birth in underground dens. MNR has a lot of great information on these guys if you want to learn more about their biology and occurrence in Ontario.

On March 30th, while walking on a property in Norfolk County, I came across some diggings made by a foraging badger. After closer inspection I realised that the Badger had dug up two Hog-nosed Snakes! This is an example of an endangered mammal digging up and killing two threatened reptiles! Pretty bizarre stuff as it didn't decide to eat them, it just killed them. I didn't think the badger was that choosy since they don't mind eating skunks! My hypothesis is that the snakes were hibernating in the sand like they do, the badger could smell them, and then dug them out to investigate. I don't think the snakes has emerged yet since they were on the top of the sand pile as opposed to buried underneath it. Below are some pictures with explanatory captions.

These are a couple of diggings the badger made while foraging for prey, likely small rodents.

 This is the diggings where the two Hog-nosed Snakes were found. Notice the wide, broad sand pile created by the badger sweeping the sand out with it's strong limbs. A canine tends to throw soil straight back when it digs, and ends up created a hole taller than it is wide.

Another good indication that a badger has created this digging is by the claw marks made in the sides and roof of the tunnel. A badger will lay on its belly and scoop sand out over its shoulders.

 That's actually two dead snakes, laying in situ the way I found them.

 The two dead snakes after I dug them out of the sand.

 Here are two pictures of the snakes cleaned up and laying next to a measuring tape. One snake had its head chewed off while the other had injuries to its body. Notice the different colour patterns.

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