Brandi Magnus and her husband Jim McIntyre are grateful to be off from work, but only because it has made it possible for them to witness something incredible.
The Cariboo couple has been enjoying watching something special happening near their home, a rare American badger is raising three young kits in a den.
The couple had first spotted one adult badger digging the den last year, at first only catching a glimpse of something moving. Then they spotted the badger digging.
“It was like someone was out there with a shovel,” said McIntyre, of the flying dirt coming from the den.
There were more sightings of her during the spring and summer but then after heavy equipment came through the lot and cleared some growth in the summer, they saw no further sign of her.
They were very happy to see her return this spring.
“Then we were absolutely ecstatic to see three babies emerge about three days ago,” said Magnus.
Affection for the neighbouring badger family was clear in their voices as they spoke to Black Press Media.
“There’s my other girlfriend,” joked McIntyre as the badger emerged from the den. “I’ve always had a fascination with wolverines, but I’ve never had a fascination with badgers until this.”
They have observed the adult hunt gophers and return to the den to feed her young and witnessed her push the young kits back into the den when a deer came too close for her comfort.
Magnus and McIntyre are enjoying the distraction from some of the more negative things going on in the world right now, and have been searching the internet to learn more about the species.
Magnus has also been trying to find out who to contact about the rare sighting, but other than a government site where she could write in a small report on seeing it, she has so far had no luck and no response.
“I just searched and searched the internet,” confessed Magnus, finally deciding to get in touch with the media in the hopes something could be done to protect the badger family.
“I figure they should probably keep the equipment away while the babies are in the den,” said Magnus.
Heavy equipment was parked nearby in the Williams Lake neighbourhood, as more lots are being prepared for home construction down the street.
After the developer Westridge Ventures was contacted by Black Press Media, they said they had not been aware there was a den.
Developer Luigi Mandarino said he would tell the equipment operators to keep out of the den site area and he was concerned work in the area over the last couple of days would have been cutting across the lot to access topsoil.
“We didn’t know there was anything there,” said Mandarino. “We’re not going to touch that for now, now that I know.”
“That’s an easy fix if we know where it is,” he added. Mandarino also expressed concern for people in the neighbourhood walking dogs near the den and said perhaps they could provide a way to keep people out of the area.
A response from the Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship said the American badger is provincially red-listed, meaning it may be endangered, threatened or at risk of disappearing in a specific area. Federally, the animal is listed as endangered. They are also legally protected from being harmed, captured, or killed under the province’s Wildlife Act. Violators can be prosecuted under this act.
Badgers sighting, burrows, or deaths can be reported on the provincial website: www.badgers.bc.ca.
Any enforcement of the Wildlife Act is the responsibility of the Conservation Officer Service and anyone concerned about impacts to wildlife can call 1-877-952-7277 or #7277 on a Telus mobility network.
The most vulnerable time period for badgers is May through July when they are raising their young and efforts should be made not to disturb them during this time.
Burrows can extend up to 20 m underground and people, vehicles and pets should be kept at least 20 m from any burrow. While badger-human conflicts are rare, the animals can be protective or defensive, especially near their burrows or when raising kits.
“As with all wildlife, never feed or approach a badger. If you encounter a badger, respect its space by backing away and leaving the area. Maintain your distance and keep pets away to avoid altercations or injuries,” stated the ministry.
Badgers can live around 14 years and are found more often in the Okanagan, Similkameen, Thompson River, Nicola Valley and East Kootenay areas, but some have been noted in the Cariboo and eastern Chilcotin. Their natural environment is deep-soiled grasslands, shrub-steppe and open stands of Ponderosa pine or Douglas fir.