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Badgers take up residence in New Richmond

Two badgers have been struck by vehicles in the New Richmond area over the past few weeks.

Although Wisconsin is called the Badger State, the animal is actually quite rare. Two were recently found in the New Richmond area.

The first, a roughly 9-pound badger, had been living in the New Richmond Business Park for about two years, according to Harvey Halvorsen, area wildlife supervisor for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The badger's burrow, located between Phillips Plastics, the soccer fields, St. Croix Press and the New Richmond Police Station, was an ideal spot for the badger, with ample supply of ground squirrels, gophers, prairie mold and other prey.

Halvorsen said the badger was first brought to his attention just a few months ago, when he got a phone call from Amber Wiesender, New Richmond's animal control officer.

"I had gotten calls about it last year, someone complaining that it was digging holes," Wiesender said. "I went out there and tried to catch it, but I never saw it. When I got another call this year, I went straight to Harvey."

Wiesender said badgers are not known for their nice attitudes and, because they're protected in Wisconsin, she wanted to get advice from the Department of Natural Resources before looking for the badger a second time.

"I just contacted Harvey right away as kind of a 'what do I do?' type thing," she said. "He took it from there."

Halvorsen was able to locate the badger's burrow in late-July with the help of New Richmond Police Officer Michael Crubaugh. A few weeks later, the badger was found dead on the side of the road.

It's unclear whether the badger was living alone or whether he had a family, Halvorsen said.

"I just came across another road killed badger yesterday," he said on Tuesday, Aug, 14.

The second badger, another in the 9-pound range, was located on County Road G, about three miles east of Highway 65.

"I don't know whether they're part of a family. From a biologists point of view, I hope they are," he said.

Halvorsen said that while badgers aren't the nicest of animals, it's unlikely that they would attack a human.

"They do bluff charges but they don't attack to bite," he said. "They're solitary animals and prefer to be left alone."

Halvorsen said the region's prairies and grasses are what might be attracting the badgers to the area.

That's because the tall grasses make great living spaces for the animals badgers like to hunt.

"The badger population responds to the prey," he said.

Halvorsen said it will be interesting to see whether any other badgers are located in the area.

Not much research has been done to track the population of badgers in the region - until recently. The Wisconsin Badger Genetics Project, a project aimed at identifying where badgers are found, estimating badger populations and understanding the animal's movement patterns, was started in 2009 through the Applied Evolutionary Ecology Lab at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Halvorsen DNA samples from both New Richmond badgers were sent to the Wisconsin Badger Genetics Project for help with their research.