Up Close And Eye Level To A Badger

There’s something quite intimidating about being this close and eye level to a badger. Especially the “eye level” part.

Recently I’ve been watching two fresh badger holes on Antelope Island. Both are within just a few feet of the badger holes where I photographed a deadly encounter between a couple of weasels and a badger about three years ago. So it goes without question that I’ve been keeping a sharp eye out for badgers at these new holes and that reminded me of another encounter I had with a badger that got my attention, but for a different reason. Thus this post.

In August of 2012 I was photographing a family of Swainson’s Hawks from my pickup on a dirt road in Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Montana. I was shooting over the top of a small hill/road cut that was right next to the road (only a few feet away) when suddenly an unexpected badger popped out of his/her hole between me and the hawks and very near the top edge of the road cut.

 

 

1/800, f/13, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

The badger was almost exactly at my eye level and so close that I had to remove my teleconverter to keep all of him? in the frame. I don’t think he appreciated my presence in the least and we had a stare-down for a few minutes that was pretty intimidating as I watched him through my lens.

It was uncomfortable shooting for me because there were grasses in front of him so I sat up as high in my pickup as I could in an attempt to shoot over them. The top of my lens was almost touching the top of my window frame and I remember my muscles shaking as I tried to maintain that uncomfortable position. At this shutter speed a lot of blurry shots were the result of my muscle tension.

 

 

1/640, f/13, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

For me there’s something extremely menacing about being this close to a badger. I’ve seen several video clips involving badger fights and I once watched an encounter between a dog and a really pissed off badger. Believe me I never want to be on the receiving end of their anger. I felt safe in my pickup of course but I kept asking myself if I’d like to be out there on foot, this close and at eye level. Especially at eye level.

The answer always came back as an emphatic “Hell no!”.

Ron

PS – I don’t want to give the impression that we need to fear badgers under normal circumstances. If we don’t bother them they’ll reciprocate. But I was unintentionally closer to this badger than I really wanted to be.

 

 

25 comments to Up Close And Eye Level To A Badger

  • Laura Culley

    In the second photo, s/he looks pretty relaxed (to me) with a countenance of “Yeah, what? You want a piece of this? No, I didn’t think so!”
    Good you were safe inside your truck! I wouldn’t have wanted to tangle with that critter.

  • Jean Haley

    He does look rather smug lol. Beautiful pictures though.

  • What a privilege to see. And yes, all I have learned of badgers suggest that respect is their due.

  • Marty K

    Great shots, as are the ones of the badger and weasels. He almost looks cuddly in the last shot here — big belly, slightly closed eyes, little smile — until I remember who he is. Then, not so much.

    I agree with Dick’s statement wholeheartedly. The only predator I really fear (and often have little respect for) is man.

  • Shirley Smith

    Nice shots, Ron! In the first picture, although his head is turned to his left it appears his eyes are turned looking at you.

  • Buff Corsi

    Just gorgeous shots of a beautiful animal. We’ve seen them a couple of times in Yellowstone, and would be thrilled to have an encounter like you did.

  • Joanne O'Brien

    What an amazing creature. I have never seen one of these fellows in the flesh! Very nice shots!

  • Patty Chadwick

    I’ve never seen a badger close up…don’t really want to…would love to see one, just not too close..have only seen their holes. The dogs, three of them (in Wounded Knee) killed one and were lucky not to get killed themselves…badgers are fierce fighters as well as beautiful creatures. That one looks tough as hell!

  • Charlotte Norton

    Fantastic shots Ron!

    Charlotte

  • Judy Gusick

    NO SHIT! Definitely not something one wants to get close to at eye level! They are beautiful and ferocious creatures. Glad you were able to get some shots even if not under ideal circumstances. Other than hit on the road once I’ve only seen them at quite a distance and that’s just fine with me! 🙂 Weasels are ferocious in their own right but size wise are no match for the Badger!

    • I used to see them often on the Montana farm, Judy – usually at night but not always. Areas of our farm were often full of badger holes and some of them were huge, including the mounds. Raises hell on farm equipment when you have to drive over them.

  • Dick Harlow

    These are great pics of a Badger and it is obvious he is keeping tabs on you.
    I think, for many humans, unfortunately fear replaces healthy respect for predators. I think you just have a healthy respect for all animal life!!
    I feel respect means keeping a healthy space between me and my subject, unless of course my truck gets in the way! But, right or wrong I feel all animals look at vehicles as potential problems. Probably because I have watched a fox come up to a parked vehicle and sniff it, brush against it. So, in my mind it is the human activity inside the vehicle that affects them not so much the standing vehicle itself. But, a moving vehicle is a different story. Just my 2 cents.

    • “I think, for many humans, unfortunately fear replaces healthy respect for predators”

      I couldn’t agree more, Dick – especially with some of the larger predators and that’s extremely unfortunate.

  • Robert (RJ) Davis

    I sometimes think there are “warden” animals that nature has in place to keep us humans at a safe distance. It is a poignant reminder that we must respect and not trespass, observe but not disturb. I am sure there are photographers willing to “poach” for that perfect picture. This is why I respect your patient and respectful approach to what you do. In putting the subject first you are willing to drive away without that perfect photographic “capture”. Sometimes what we consider as luck is just reward for being present and non-intrusive.

    • Thanks for those kind words, Robert. In reality I could never enjoy a photo that wasn’t taken ethically anyway, no matter how “good” it was.

  • Seeing your photo is close enough for me re closeness to a badger, thank you very much! Yet what a delight to see it in its intensity! Good job! (And clearly good exercise for those shaking muscles. :))

    Thanks!