A big-dreaming badger was caught on tape burying a massive feast that will probably keep him fed for months. He spent 5 days digging and burying the carcass of a calf 4 times its size.
University of Utah biologists were studying scavengers in the Great Basin. When most of us think of scavengers we think of cowardly critters that pick clean the bones of the dead.
Hardly a romantic notion, but scientists think this hard-working badger might go a long way to fixing that reputation.
Doctoral candidate Evan Buechley used seven calf carcasses to try to lure scavengers. He staked them to the ground so coyotes wouldn't run off with his bait. When he returned two weeks later one of the carcasses was missing. He couldn't find drag marks or any other signs that something ran off with the body.
"I was kind of disappointed because setting them up was a lot of work and then the carcass was gone so soon," he said.
He did eventually see signs of a big den hole, that's when he decided to check the camera.
What he saw is something never recorded in scientific history. A scavenger burying a quarry vastly larger than itself.
The badger dug all around the calf, effectively lowering it into the ground, and then piled dirt on top of it. Burying food isn't unique, it effectively refrigerates the meat preventing it from spoiling, but biologists have always assumed scavengers only take portions, not entire bodies.
Badgers have long been considered a pest by ranchers, but Buechley says the discovery shows that badgers actually provide a service. Burying dead animals helps limit the spread of disease, it adds nutrients to soil and disposes of a possible attraction of larger predators, like coyotes or wolves.
Watch the little guy roll up his sleeves and get to work for yourself: