Badgers are not the first animal that comes to mind when a person is asked to identify the ones residing in B.C, but they are here and many British Columbians hope that they stay, not just because they are endangered, but because they serve a good purpose too. One place that the people are happy they have made a home is at the Princeton Golf Course. They have been spotted there and welcomed for their presence.
Federally, badgers are listed as endangered and in B.C. they are RED listed (endangered or threatened). There are estimated to be under 300 badgers in the province. Badgers have a white stripe that goes from the tip of their nose over the top of their head to between their shoulders. This stripe is their trademark and as unique to them as fingerprints are to humans. They are stout, low to the ground animals with incredible stamina and strength. Badgers can dig a metre of dirt in a minute. They live in burrows that are wider than they are tall and this is one of the telltale signs that they have settled in an area, as coyotes, foxes and wolves have taller den entrances than wide.
Last Thursday, in partnership with the Regional District of the Okanagan/Similkameen Chandra Wong, Michael Bezener, Roger Packham and Ian Elko were at Riverside Theatre to talk about badgers and the South Okanagan Stewardship Program. “We’re here to help landowners help wildlife,” said Bezener who wears two hats – one as a part of the Similkameen Stewardship Program and the other as Senior Stewardship Officer for the Okanagan Region of The Land Conservancy. “We want them to be good stewards of their land by giving them access to free tools and support.” The reason behind the program is simple. “There are diminishing wildlife populations and habitat destruction and degradation that we need to acknowledge now,” Bezener continued. “We have already lost five more species recently and we need to prevent the loss of others. We need to re-introduce species into areas where they once were and help their survival.”
The desire to save species of animals, birds, insects and plant life is not just something being done at a local or regional level. Partnerships all across Canada have been made between government agencies, private corporations and non-profit organizations. These partnerships include the Ministry of Natural Resource Operations, Wildlife Habitat Canada, RDOS and Ducks Unlimited to name a few. “Much of our funding does come from government,” said Bezener “but it is about sharing a relationship with the landowners.”
Landowners are being encouraged to become stewards. “A Wildlife Habitat Steward is a landowner who has been recognized as actively participating in the South Okanagan – Similkameen (SOS) Stewardship Program. These individuals have natural areas on their properties and they are voluntarily setting them aside for the conservation of plants, animals and other lifeforms..” This information is found in a Wildlife Habitat Steward pamphlet that is available to landowners. The pamphlet outlines the process to becoming a land steward.
An assessment by a wildlife technician or biologist is the first step. The assigned staff member will come out to the landowners property and answer questions, explain the program and identify wildlife on the particular piece of land. Once this is done, if the landowner is still interested, SOS will help the landowner move to the protection phase by offering advice and often financial aid. A stewardship agreement would be signed usually for a 5 year term and the partnership would begin to blossom from the assessment stage to the protection phase.
The Princeton Golf Course entered into a Stewardship Agreement last year after golf course superintendent Ian Elko phoned the Badger sighting hotline to report the addition of some new guests at the club. The guests soon became a very welcome sight as they were slowly depleting the amount of rodents who were destroying the course with their holes. “Rodents have always been one of our biggest problems,” Elko stated. “Ground squirrels are really bad. We have tried to deter them from residing at the course in many ways with little success. Then, the badgers moved in and the population of ground squirrels went way down. I found out one badger eats around two ground squirrels a day.”
Since the phone call Ian made, an assessment was done at the course and the golf course voluntarily signed a Stewardship Agreement which is not only encouraging the badgers to stay, but is also helping the staff there deal with toad flax, mustard weed, knapweed and other noxious forms of plant life. “We are planting plants to encourage the badgers to stick around,” Elko said. “Two adults and a kit were spotted last golf season and there is a den on hole #1 and another on hole #16. One of the big concerns by the golf course for the badgers is the highway crossing. A few months ago the Ministry of Transportation erected some badger crossing signs along Hwy #3 and on Darcy Mountain Road. “Hopefully it will make a difference,” Elko stated. About a decade ago the golf course had badgers and they were eventually killed crossing the highway.
“Highway crossing causes the highest number of fatalities for badgers,” said Roger Packham Senior Eco-system biologist for the Cariboo Region. Packham has worked extensively to help identify and protect B.C.’s small badger population on a Badger Recovery Team. One story of badger success has been prevalent at Marmot Ridge Golf Course at 100 Mile, B.C. The course was named after the thousands of marmots who had all but taken over the landscape. “One badger showed up and then another and soon the 10,000 some marmots were down to 50 or so,” Packham explained. “People at Marmot Ridge that the course was named after are starting to wonder where all the marmots have gone.”
Badgers can live just about anywhere and the partnership team that is trying to help badgers stay as a part of B.C.’s landscape want humans to help. “We need to work together,” Bezener stated. The public is asked to watch for badgers across B.C. and report any sightings dead or alive and to phone the badger hotline at 1-888-223-4376 or to go to badgers.bc.ca for more information on the endangered critters. “We need a recovery strategy for badgers,” Packham concluded, “so we can increase badger survivorship.”