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Burrow webs: Clawing the surface of interactions with burrows excavated by American badgers

Cite this dataset

Holbrook, Joseph; Andersen, Megan; Bennett, Drew (2022). Burrow webs: Clawing the surface of interactions with burrows excavated by American badgers [Dataset]. Dryad.


Ecosystem engineers are organisms that influence their environment, which includes alteration leading to habitat provisioning for other species. Perhaps the most well examined guild of species provisioning habitat for other species is tree cavity excavators, or woodpeckers (Picidae). Many studies have examined the suite of secondary cavity users that rely on woodpeckers, and how the ecological network of secondary users, collectively referred to as the nest web, changes across communities. Despite similar habitat provisioning processes, fewer studies have assessed the suite of species associated with burrowers providing access to subterranean habitat. Here, we begin to characterize the burrow web provisioned by American badgers (Taxidea taxus) and evaluate the diversity and frequency of species interactions we detected at abandoned badger burrows in Wyoming, USA. We deployed camera-traps at 23 badger burrows and identified interactions with the burrow by birds, mammals, and reptiles. Overall, we identified 31 other species utilizing badger burrows, consisting of 12 mammals, 18 birds, and 1 reptile. Mammals, other than American badgers themselves and other fossorial species such as ground squirrels (Urocitellus sp.), frequently using burrows included mice (Peromyscus sp.), long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata), pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis), and desert cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii). Of the 18 bird species detected, most accounted for less than 5% of overall detections, besides chipping sparrows (Spizella passerina) at 7.2 – 11.5% of detections. The most common category of detection by bird species was foraging, contrary to mammals, which used the burrow frequently and were commonly observed entering and existing the burrow. This work provides additional context on the ecological role American badgers provide within their environment. More broadly, this work scratches the surface of many remaining questions to explore with the aim of advancing our understandings about burrow webs across the diversity of burrowing species and the communities in which they occur.