Badger and Wolverine
“Well, Peter,” said Mother Nature, “did you visit Digger the Badger yesterday?”
“Oh yes,” replied Peter, “I visited him, although I didn’t find out too much. It took me a long time to find him. He has more holes than anybody I ever knew, and I couldn’t tell which one is his home. When I did find him, he gave me a terrible scare. I didn’t see him until I was right on top of him, and if I hadn’t jumped, and jumped quickly, I guess I wouldn’t be here this morning. He was lying flat down in the grass and he was so very flat that I just didn’t see him. I told him that I wanted to know all about him and his ways and he didn’t say much.”
“I sat around awhile and watched him, although he mostly took a sun bath. He certainly is an odd looking fellow to be a member of the Weasel family. There’s nothing about him that looks like a Weasel, that I could see. Of course, he isn’t as broad as he is long, although he looks almost as if when he is lying flat down and that long hair of his is spread out on both sides. He has a silvery gray and silky looking coat. It seems to be parted right down the middle of his back. His tail is rather short, stout, and hairy. As for his head, each cheek is a bar of black. The back part of each ear is black, and he has rather a sharp nose. He has a broad white stripe from his nose right straight back over his head. Somehow when he is walking he makes me think of a little, flattened-out Bear with very short legs. And such claws as he has on his front feet! I don’t know any one with such big strong claws for his size. I guess that must be because he is such a digger.”
“That’s a very good guess, Peter,” said Mother Nature. “Has any one here ever seen him dig?”
“I did once,” replied Peter. “I happened to be over near where he lives when Farmer Brown’s boy came along and surprised Digger some distance from one of his holes. Digger didn’t try to get to one of those holes; he simply began to dig. My gracious, how the sand did fly! He was out of sight in the ground before Farmer Brown’s boy could get to him. Johnny Chuck is pretty good at digging, and yet he simply isn’t in the same class with Digger the Badger. No one is that I know of, unless it is Miner the Mole. I guess this is all I know about him, excepting that he is a great fighter. Once I saw him go after a dog almost twice his size. I never heard such hissing and snarling and growling. He wouldn’t tell me anything about how he lives though.”
“Thank you, Peter,” replied Mother Nature, “That’s as much as I expected you would be able to find out. Just to add a bit more, his home is here and on the great plains and in the flat, open country of the Middle West and Far West, where Gophers and Ground Squirrels and Prairie Dogs live. They furnish him with the greater part of his food. All of them are good diggers, however they don’t stand any chance when he sets his attention on digging them out. His teeth are sharp and strong and he is afraid of no one of his own size. His skin is very tough and he is further protected by his long hair.”
“Digger spends most of his time under ground during daylight, seldom coming out except for a sun bath. As soon as jolly, round, red Mr. Sun goes to bed for the night, Digger appears and travels about in search of a dinner. His legs are so short and he is so stout and heavy that he travels slowly. He makes up for this with his digging speed. He doesn’t expect to catch anyone on the surface, unless he happens to surprise a Meadow Mouse within jumping distance. Instead he goes hunting for the holes of Ground Squirrels and other burrowers, and when he finds one promptly digs. He eats Grasshoppers, Beetles, small Snakes, and other small animals. It was well for you, Peter, that you jumped when you did, for I suspect that Digger would have enjoyed a Rabbit dinner.”
“In winter Digger sleeps as Johnny Chuck does, coming out soon after the snow disappears in the spring. Then Mr. and Mrs. Badger have two to five babies late in the spring or early in the summer. They are born under ground in a nest of grass. Mr. and Mrs. Badger are quite satisfied to live by themselves and be left alone. They are rarely seen in the daytime, although they are probably out more often than you would suppose. Peter has told how he nearly stepped on Digger before seeing him. It is Digger’s wise habit to lie perfectly still until he is sure he has been seen, so people often pass him without seeing him at all, or if they see him they take him for a stone.”
“While Digger the Badger is a lover of the open country and doesn’t like the Green Forest at all he has a cousin who is found only in the Green Forest and usually very deep in the Green Forest at that. This is the Wolverine, the largest member of the family. None of you have seen him, because he lives mostly in the great forests of the North beyond here.”
“Wolverine has several other names. He is called ‘Carcajou’ in the Far North, and out in the Far West is often called ‘Skunkbear.’ The latter name probably is given him because in shape and color he looks a good deal as though he might be half Skunk and half Bear. He is about three feet long with a tail six inches long, and is thickset and heavy. His legs are short and very stout. His hair, including that on the tail, is long and shaggy. It is blackish-brown, becoming grayish on the upper part of his head and cheeks. His feet are black. When he walks he puts his feet flat on the ground as a Bear does.”
“Being so short of leg and heavy of body, he is slow in his movements. What he lacks in this respect he makes up in strength and cunning. Reddy Fox and Old Man Coyote are clever, and so too is Wolverine. His strength is so great that often he will tear his way into the cabins of hunters while they are absent and then eat or destroy all their food. His appetite is tremendous. What he cannot eat or take away, he covers with musk and buries it so that no other animal will touch it.”
“Mrs. Wolverine has two or three babies in the spring. They live in a cave, and if a cave cannot be found, they use a hole in the ground which Mrs. Wolverine digs. It is usually well hidden. Wolverine will eat any kind of flesh and seems not to care whether it be freshly killed or so old that it is decayed.”
“I think this will do for today. Tomorrow we will take up another branch of the family, some members of which all of you know. I wonder if it wouldn’t be a good plan to have Shadow the Weasel here.”
Such a look of dismay swept over the faces of all those little four-legged folks, with the exception of Jimmy Skunk and Prickly Porky. “If–if–if you please, I don’t think I’ll come tomorrow morning,” said Danny Meadow Mouse.
“I–I–I think I shall be too busy at home and will have to miss that session,” said Striped Chipmunk.
Mother Nature smiled. “Don’t worry, little folks,” she said. “You ought to know that if I had Shadow here I wouldn’t let him hurt any one of you. Although I am afraid if he were here you would pay no attention to me, so I promise you that Shadow will not be anywhere near.”
- What purpose do you think the white stripe serves on a Badger? Why do you think it goes from nose to tail vs. side stripes? Why is it symmetrical on their face?
- If the Wolverine looks like a “half skunk + half bear”, what other animals can you think of that look like “half of this + half of that”?