Video: Badger buries cow carcass in Utah, shocks science world

Badger buries cow carcass, discovering previously unknown behavior. (Courtesy Evan Buechley)

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) - University of Utah biologists have caught a badger doing something that scientists have never observed before: burying a meal much bigger than itself.

The university released its finding and a video of the new behavior Friday. It shows the badger working on hiding the food, set to the tune "Yakety Sax," the Boots Randolf tune famous for its use in funny films and on television.

So, what is the big deal? The new behavior suggests that badgers may have no limit to the size of animal they can store for eating and it may play an important role in what happens to large carcasses.

"We know a lot about badgers morphologically and genetically, but behaviorally there's a lot of blank spaces that need to be filled," said senior Ethan Frehner, first author on the paper documenting the badger behavior. "This is a substantial behavior that wasn't at all known about."

The research project, designed to learn more about the ecology of scavengers in the Great Basin, wasn't intended to study badgers. But after one of the study carcasses went missing, Evan Buechley, with funding from the National Science Foundation, checked on the project, found one carcass missing and then realized the ground where it was previously had been disturbed. Buechley immediately downloaded the photos for the study's camera.

"We didn't go out to study badgers specifically, but the badger declared itself to us," he said.

Camera trap records show that the badger completely buried the roughly 50-pound carcass over the course of five days, and then spent around two weeks in his underground burrow before leaving and intermittently returning to the burrow for the next few weeks until early March. According to the researchers, badgers cache food to isolate it from other scavengers and to keep it in an environment where it will last longer.

"Like putting it in the fridge," Buechley said.

The university said the study highlights how little is known about scavengers and how much remains to be discovered.

You can read the study right here.

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