On April 24, a badger den near Bayfield was destroyed by gas well drilling. At the end of the day, district wildlife manager Stephanie Schuler arrived at the site to pick up the one out of the den, and then she reached way into the den and retrieved the remaining two. Their hole was starting to fill with water. Tara Bodine, mammal rehabber in Durango, called Brenda Miller of Roubideau Rim Wildlife Rescue outside Olathe to see if she could take the badgers. Brenda insisted that they go back out for the night, in the hope the mother would come back for them. The staff at the Durango Vet Clinic warmed the badgers up and hydrated them, then Stephanie took them back to the den area in a box. Mother did not come back.
The badgers were taken back to the Durango Vet clinic the next day and cared for a couple of days until arrangements could be made for their transport to Brenda Miller.
Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) volunteer Jennifer Dewey picked them up Sunday in Durango, relaying them to Bill Sanburg and his wife in Ridgway for them to take to Brenda. These were nestling babies; their eyes and ears were just starting to open.
There is no such thing as badger formula for babies. They had a difficult time the first 10 days adjusting to their milk replacement formula. The female especially had a difficult time with diarrhea. A lot of work went into keeping them clean, warm and fed. They required a very large outdoor cage to grow up in, where they could dig tunnels for their homes. Tunnels in dirt are much cooler during the day than temperatures above ground.
The two males and female weighed between 11 1/2 and 14 pounds at release on July 26, at a ranch outside of Ignacio where they have plenty of prairie dogs to hunt. As of the writing of this story, they are all still alive.
Badgers' main food is prairie dogs. They keep the populations in check, along with coyotes and raptors which also hunt prairie dogs. Badgers also eat many kinds of bugs, carrion and vegetation of rosehips, tubers, leafy plants, fruits, seeds and nuts. When raised by humans, they are at an extreme disadvantage in learning what to eat and where food is to be found. They have to learn this on their own, once they have been released. They bury their feces and urine, by first digging a hole with their front feet, squatting over the hole, then burying it back up with front feet. Their front claws were about an inch long at time of release, and very sharp -- they are fast diggers! Brenda never saw them groom themselves, and that may be because they never had a parent to do it for them, then teach, or maybe they do it in their dens.
Miller expressed her appreciation to district wildlife manager Stephanie Schuler for rescuing the badgers, the staff at the Durango Animal Hospital, CPW volunteer Bill Sanburg and Jennifer Dewey (who also transported them to the release site), Laura and Paul Lenihan and numerous 4-H youth in Montrose County for donating their rabbit culls, and Buffy at Rocky Mountain Rodents in Hotchkiss for her generous donation of mice. (Badgers eat the bones of their prey, which supply calcium.)
"So much appreciation and thanks to the many citizens who have donated old meat, fruit and vegetables when cleaning out their freezers," Miller said. "Thank you to those people who have made monetary donations that cover food, supplies, fuel, caging materials, medicines, licensing fees for the non-profit. It takes the help of many people to assist a volunteer, licensed wildlife rehabilitator to raise a creature, and get it released back into the wild.
"It is rare that a wildlife rehabber ever gets to know if something they have raised has survived.Raising the badgers has been a once-in-a-lifetime for me," Miller said.
Roubideau Rim Wildlife Rescue still seeks a donation of land, or long-term lease to build a wildlife rehab facility and education center.
"We have received a generous donation to cover the costs of building a HUGE flight cage for large birds, and indoor, heated hospital cages for winter time care for these birds," Miller explained. "Now, we need land to put it on! We appreciate hearing the public's thoughts and ideas, so please contact us at email@example.com, 209-5946 or P.O. Box 750, Olathe, CO 81425.
If you are interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator, go to the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website, click on "Special Licensing," then click on "Wildlife Rehabilitation." Please feel free to contact Roubideau Rim Wildlife Rescue with questions. A wildlife rehabilitator is a volunteer for Colorado Parks & Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. No monetary compensation is provided.