By Helen Davis
It’s been a bad summer for the endangered British Columbia badger population.
Badgers – one of the rarest mammals in B.C. – continue to be killed on our highways again this year. In the past week alone, at least four badgers in the Okanagan Valley have died after being struck by vehicles, including one badger east of Vernon killed on Highway 6 despite attempts at warning motorists about its presence.
Warning signs, which have also been installed in the South Cariboo, had been installed in June, but the badger was struck and killed between the signs.
Two days later, a family group of mother and two babies (called kits) were struck and killed on Highway 97 east of UBC-Okanagan where they had created a lot of interest after taking up residence above a parking lot.
Biologists estimate that fewer than 250 mature badgers live in the Western population (Okanagan Valley-Cariboo region) in B.C.; that means almost two per cent of this endangered population was killed on highways in two days.
That doesn’t include four other badgers killed in the Cariboo region so far this year.
Badgers’ most common cause of death is being hit on roads and road-kill is the single biggest threat to this population.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is aware of the negative impact of highways on badger populations, but meaningful changes to highways to reduce road-kill, such as fencing and effective underpasses to help badgers to cross roads safely, have not been used to date.
New research underway in B.C. is attempting to learn how big of a factor roads and other barriers are to the health of badger populations in B.C.
This summer, biologists at UBC-Okanagan, B.C. Ministry of Environment, Okanagan Nation Alliance, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Artemis Wildlife Consultants are collecting hair samples for genetic analysis to find out where important connections occur between badger populations in B.C. and the larger population in Washington State.
The public can report badger sightings and learn more about badgers in B.C. at www.badgers.bc.ca or 1-888-223-4376.
Sighting reports, dead or alive should include the date, time of day, location and time of day for mapping purposes.
Helen Davis is an Artemis Wildlife Consultants employee and can be reached at 250-388-5515, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.