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Unusual Food Items from Stomachs of American Badgers (Taxidea taxus) in Expanding Range in Arkansas
Renn Tumlison and Allison Surf

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 15, Issue 1 (2016): N1–N3

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N1 2016 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 15, No. 1 R. Tumlison and A. Surf Unusual Food Items from Stomachs of American Badgers (Taxidea taxus) in Expanding Range in Arkansas Renn Tumlison1,* and Allison Surf1 Abstract – Taxidea taxus (American Badger), historically a prairie species, has expanded its range southeastward in Arkansas likely due to habitat alterations resulting from agricultural modification of the landscape. Its typical foods are an array of small mammals, and seldom have amphibians been documented in its diet. Northeastern Arkansas was prone to flooding prior to the construction of levees, and American Badgers have since colonized the agricultural habitat that developed after flooding stopped. We found that 2 road-killed badgers collected from a newly established population in northeastern Arkansas had consumed many frogs. This is the first account of numerous amphibians documented in the diet of badgers. Taxidea taxus (Schreber) (American Badger, hereafter Badger) is typically considered to be an inhabitant of plains habitats and is observed less often in forested areas (Bee et al. 1981, Caire et al. 1989, Davis and Schmidly 1994). Badgers are most common where the soil has a sandy-loam texture, as often occurs in agricultural habitats (Apps et al. 2002, Bee et al. 1981). In recent years, however, populations have extended their ranges southward from some northern states (Lindzey 2003) and eastward in the northern US (Nugent and Choate 1970), Texas (Davis and Schmidly 1994), Oklahoma (Tumlison and Bastarache 2008), and Arkansas (Tumlison et al. 2012). The eastern expansion followed habitat alteration caused by logging and land clearing (Lindzey 2003, Schwart z and Schwartz 1981). Heidt et al. (1996) concluded that the Badger was rare in Arkansas. However, deforestation and construction of levees and drainage systems in the Mississippi alluvial plain of eastern Arkansas accommodated agriculture and made the area more prairie-like. In addition, the well-drained loessal soils forming Crowley’s Ridge provided good burrowing habitat, which likely permitted the recent establishment of a population of Badgers in northeastern Arkansas (Tumlison et al. 2012). Generally, the Badger is a grassland carnivore preying most heavily on burrowing mammals such as rabbits (Leporidae), ground squirrels (Sciuridae), gophers (Geomyidae), Marmota monax L. (Woodchuck), and small rodents (Lindzey 2003, Mumford and Whitaker 1982). Presence of rabbits, Woodchucks, and many smaller rodents in agricultural areas of northeastern Arkansas may provide an abundant food supply suitable for Badgers (Tumlison et al. 2012). However, range expansion also can provide opportunities to incorporate new food items into the diet of an opportunistic predator. We examined stomachs of 2 badgers that had been killed on highways in northeastern Arkansas during 2014. Both specimens appeared to be healthy and had good stores of fat. We collected an adult male Badger in Mississippi County on AR St. Hwy 18 near Manila, about 1.6 km west of Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge (GPS 35.872112°N, 90.156273°W) on 21 August 2014. The stomach contained remains of arthropods including 25 green and 8 brown stink bugs (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) and 4 kinds of Coleopterans (1 unidentified Scarabeidae, 2 unidentified different Carabidae, 1 Harmonia axyridis [Pallas] [Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle; Coccinellidae], and 1 Diabrotica undecimpunctata Mannerheim 1Department of Biology, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, AR 71999. *Corresponding author - tumlison@hsu.edu. Manuscript Editor: Mike Conner Notes of the Southeastern Naturalist, Issue 15/1, 2016 2016 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 15, No. 1 N2 R. Tumlison and A. Surf [Spotted Cucumber Beetle; Chrysomelidae]). Interestingly, the stomach was filled with remains of 16 toads (Anaxyrus spp.) either A. americanus (Holbrook) (American Toad) or A. fowleri (Hinkley) (Fowler’s Toad. Snout–vent lengths of the toads ranged from 25 mm to 40 mm. Though the viscera of the toads were mostly digested, the intact condition of the vertebral column and dorsal skin indicated that the items had been consumed a few hours prior to the Badgers’ deaths (Harlow 1981). An adult female Badger had been hit about 5.5 km west-northwest of Marion (GPS 35.22627°N, 90.25420°W) in Crittenden County on 11 June 2014. Her stomach contained remains of arthropods including 1 green Pentatomid and 3 families of Coleopterans (1 small adult and 2 small larvae [wireworms] of unidentified Elateridae, 1 Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle [Coccinellidae], and 1 Labidomera clivicollis [Kirby] [Milkweed Leaf Beetle; Chrysomelidae]). We discriminated unique bones, and determined that the animal had consumed a minimum of 7 frogs. Sizes of comparable bones approximated the sizes of those found in frogs from the male Badger. Although northeastern Arkansas has been transformed from bottomland to agricultural land, most roads in the area are lined by ditches that usually contain water throughout the spring and into the summer. We examined a photo taken just prior to retrieval of the specimen that revealed a roadside ditch full of water at the collection site in Mississippi County. We suggest that because both Badgers were road-kills, they may have been foraging along the roads and had opportunistically fed on mating aggregations of frogs in the ditches. We collected the 2 Badger specimens ~73 km (45 mi) apart; thus they do not represent similar feeding patterns in a localized area. As opportunistic predators, Badgers supplement their diets with a variety of prey (Lampe 1982, Messick 1987, Sovada et al. 1999). Yet, amphibians have been reported only rarely in studies of Badger foods. Sovada et al. (1999) found 4 Ambystoma tigrinum Green (Tiger Salamander) in an adult Badger and 1 frog in a juvenile specimen, Errington (1937) noted the occurrence of 3 frogs (Rana, currently Lithobates) consumed by Badgers in marsh country, and Long (1964) considered it unusual to find 5 toads (along with 5 mice) in a Badger stomach. Notably, badgers of the genus Meles (Asian and European badgers) do feed on anurans (Nowak 1999). Our discovery revealed that Badgers occurring along roadway ditches in modified habitats of northeastern Arkansas might rely heavily on anurans during the summer. We found numerous insects in the 2 stomachs, but, due to their small size, we believe these most likely represented foods consumed by the toads that later became prey themselves. Occurrence of insects has previously been interpreted as remains from foods of prey items that secondarily appeared in Badger stomachs (Errington 1937). Arkansas Badgers most likely also consume burrowing mammals, as is typical of the species. However, our results suggest that in agricultural habitat bordered by roads and ditches, American Badgers can feed heavily on anurans, a previously rarely reported food item. Acknowledgments. We thank Jeremy Bennett, Kirk Harris, Jay Hitchcock, Bill Petersen, Andy Smith, and Christian Vlautin for providing information and specimens during this study. Literature Cited Apps, C.D., N.J. Newhouse, and T.A. Kinley. 2002. Habitat associations of American Badgers in southeastern British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Zoology 80:1 228–1239. Bee, J.W., G.E. Glass, R.S. Hoffmann, and R.R. Patterson. 1981. Mammals in Kansas. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, Public Education Series 7:1–300. 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Wild Mammals of North America: Biology, Management, and Conservation, 2nd Edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD. 1216 p p. Long, C.A. 1964. The Badger as a natural enemy of Ambystoma tigrinum and Bufo boreas. Herpetologica 20:144. Messick, J.P. 1987. North American Badger. Pp 586–597, In M. Novak, J.A. Baker, M.E. Obbard, and B. Mallock (Eds.). Wild Furbearer Management and Conservation in North America. Ontario Trapper’s Association and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Toronto, ON, Canada. 1150 pp. Mumford, R.E., and J.O. Whitaker Jr. 1982. Mammals of Indiana. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN. 837 pp. Nowak, R.M. 1999. Walker’s Mammals of the World, Vol. 1, 6th Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD. 836 pp. Nugent, R.F., and J.R. Choate. 1970. Eastward dispersal of the Badger, Taxidea taxus, into the northeastern United States. Journal of Mammalogy 51:626–627. Schwartz, C.W., and E.R. Schwartz. 1981. The Wild Mammals of Missouri. University of Missouri Press and Missouri Department of Conservation, Columbia, MO. 35 6 pp. Sovada, M.A., J.M. Roaldson, and A.B. Sargeant. 1999. Foods of American Badgers in west-central Minnesota and southeastern North Dakota during the duck-nesting season. American Midland Naturalist 142:410–414. Tumlison, R., and D.R. Bastarache. 2008. New records of the Badger (Taxidea taxus) in southeastern Oklahoma. Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science 87:107–109. Tumlison, R., D.B. Sasse, M.E. Cartwright, S.C. Brandenbura, and T. Klotz. 2012. The American Badger (Taxidea taxus) in Arkansas, with emphasis on expansion of its range into northeastern Arkansas. Southwestern Naturalist 57:467–471.