What’s life like for real American badgers? I’m graduating after four years with a collection of pictures with Bucky, have visited the badger at Henry Vilas Zoo and yet have never wondered about the qualities that make them such a great mascot.
The American badger (Taxidea taxis) was named Wisconsin’s state animal and later UW-Madison’s mascot after the miners during the 1800s, who worked and lived in the lead hillside mines of southwestern Wisconsin. However, badgers have other commonalities with UW-Madison students which make them a great mascot in addition to historical significance. Badgers live in setts, aka burrows, along hillsides with light, sandy soils in order to dig into the ground quickly and deeply, which is similar to UW-Madison students’ academic integrity. UW-Madison Badgers dig deep into their research to find answers and make ground-breaking discoveries. In the winter, many UW-Madison Badgers cuddle up indoors and only brace the cold when necessary—to go to class, take part in Bascom Hill snowball fights or sled down Observatory with Liz Waters Hall dining trays. Real badgers also don’t enter “true” hibernation. They exit their setts occasionally for food and on “warm” days. During the summer badgers are primarily nocturnal, just how UW-Madison Badgers revel in Madison’s night life whether it be a house party, bars on State Street or night sails with Hoofers on Lake Menona.
UW-Madison students tend to be a bit more social than their counterpart badgers in nature. American badgers are quite solitary except during mating season. However, UW-Madison Badgers can be independent when necessary and relied on for various responsibilities using strong problem-solving skills. On the other hand, if friends and family of badgers in nature are threatened, they become ferociously aggressive in order to defend and protect. The UW-Madison students have analogously had a long and proud history of standing up for not only friends, but also what they believe in to make a difference through activism and involvement.
I, Ms. Scientist, will be graduating at Camp Randall where the first UW-Madison Badger made its appearance in 1889, but a new Ms. or Mr. Scientist will continue this column in the fall. Be proud to be a Badger at such a progressive university and “On Wisconsin!”