Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

May 18, 2014

MARTINO: Badgers are part of Hoosier outdoors

Ivy Tech planning Hunter Education course at Tipton


Kokomo Tribune

---- — My friend Bob Tolleson was on the other end of the phone and I could tell immediately he was excited.

“I have to talk to you,” he said. “I know you won’t believe this, but I want to tell you what I saw.”

Tolleson and his wife, Jenny, were spending an enjoyable day searching for morel mushrooms in neighboring Miami County. One of their favorite spots is a large woodlot adjacent to an expansive overgrown pasture. After scanning the edges of the wood floor for several minutes he paused to gaze across the open meadow. That’s when he noticed something dark moving in his direction.

“It was a badger,” he explained.

Now in his 60s, Tolleson is an avid sportsman and no stranger to wildlife.

”I got a good look at it and this was no groundhog or raccoon either,” he continued. “I am positive it was a badger.”

This came as no surprise. American badgers are native to the Hoosier State and their numbers continue to grow, although sparingly.

In reality, badgers have always been a part of our natural landscape. There was a time when their numbers were few. In the early 1900s, barely a dozen counties could boast of having a badger population. In 1969 badgers, bobcats and river otters were included on Indiana’s original endangered species list and were highly protected. For the next 10 years, DNR biologists paid particular attention to these species. But by then badgers were found in 33 Indiana counties.

With each passing decade, their numbers continue to expand. Now they can be found in 82 of Indiana’s 92 counties. Once endangered, they have now moved down the list to a species of special concern and are still protected.

Biologists believe the increase in suitable habitat is the reason for their expansion. Unlike what you may think, badgers prefer tree-less, open-prairie-like areas. Although Indiana is the eastern edge of their geographical range, they continue to expand as more wooded areas are cleared for farmland. Primarily nocturnal, they can be seen during the day.

Although they provide little in terms of economic value, they are an amazing native wildlife species. Highly temperamental, they are the only true carnivore specifically adapted for digging. They sport stocky, low-slung bodies with short powerful legs and huge claws made perfectly for excavation. As you would guess, their preferred food sources are mice, ground squirrels and moles.

In Indiana badgers have few natural enemies as they are a formidable opponent to would-be attackers. Because of their low-to-the-ground, stocky nature, they are nearly impossible to knock over and are quick to inflict injury to anything that tries. Their thick skin hangs loose, so when grabbed by would-be predators, they can easily turn to inflict a powerful bite to their opponent.

Badgers have unique facial markings. The side of their head is usually white with patches of black. They almost always have a white stripe over the center of their head from tip of nose to the back of neck. Their coat is usually grizzled looking.

“It is difficult to mistake it for any other animal,” said Scott Johnson, DNR wildlife biologist. “Although their populations do continue to grow slowly, they are secretive in nature and are only occasionally seen.”

As with any wildlife species, if you would happen to encounter a badger, it’s best to appreciate their existence and view from a distance.

HUNTER ED. IN TIPTON

In a continued effort to provide life-benefiting classes, degrees, certifications and programs to a wide variety of youth and adults, Ivy Tech Community College will sponsor an IDNR-certified Hunter Education course at its Tipton Instructional site, located at 221 N. Main Street.

The program is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 31 and again from noon to 4 p.m. on June 1. It is important to note these classes are mandatory for everyone born after Dec. 31, 1986 before purchasing a valid Indiana hunting license. All participants who complete the course and pass the final exam will receive a certification good for life. It is so informative that Indiana’s certification is honored by other states as well.

Hunter Education benefits everyone whether you have an interest in hunting or not. Subjects include complete firearms safety, hunter ethics, wildlife conservation and first aid to name a few. You can register for the class by logging onto www.indianahuntereducation.com.,then clicking on “classic course.”

BASS FOR BUCKS

Fishing for large and smallmouth bass is a great recreational past time, but it can also help line your wallet — provided you catch the right fish.

The Department of Natural Resources has placed tags in more than 400 largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass in several central and northern Indiana rivers and streams. The purpose is to learn more about harvest rates and fish movements and who better to help than anglers.

Any one catching a tagged bass can earn gift cards to Bass Pro Shop from $5 to $25 by reporting the catch and returning the tag to DNR biologists.

All fish were tagged on the lip with a small metal band that has an identification number. There were 160 bass tagged in the West Fork of the White River in Madison, Hamilton and Marion counties. The St. Joseph River in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties has 156 tagged fish. Students along with several biologists tagged 87 smallmouth bass in the Eel River in Wabash, Miami and Cass counties.

Tagged bass do not have to be harvested to receive the reward, but those catching the fish must remove the tag. To report a tagged fish all you have to do is call the phone number listed on the band.

TOURNAMENT RESULTS

The father-and-son team of Roger and Lane Eubank won first place at last Monday’s Kokomo Reservoir open team bass tourney, sponsored by Cardwell Built Construction. They took the event with five largemouth bass totalling 8.77 pounds. Second was Phil Reel also with five fish topping out at 8.25 pounds. Frank Brown was third with four fish dropping the digital scales at 7.22 pounds. Doug Pence carried in a fish weighing 2.67 pounds, earning the weekly event’s ‘big bass” trophy.

MOTHER OF ALL MORELS

If you think you have found a monster mushroom, remember to enter it in this spring’s WWKI Mother of All Morels contest. The annual event ends Friday. To enter all you have to do is take your fantastic fungi to the radio station office located at 519 N. Main Street near downtown Kokomo during normal business hours. This year’s winner will pick up valuable prize packages from morelheaven.com, Bass-N-Bucks, plus many more.

John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at jmartinooutdoors@att.net.