Monday, October 2, 2023

A Texas man recently spotted one of the state’s most elusive creatures scampering around on a beach, soaking wet and covered in sand, photos show.

Tom Howe, a 67-year-old Padre Island resident, was looking for a spot to go fishing when his car battery died near the beach, he told McClatchy News. But thanks to that unlucky break, he spotted something furry and four-legged moving in the surf.

“All of the sudden I see something on the beach,” Howe said. “At first I thought it was a young coyote pup … but I got closer and thought it must be a raccoon.”

“Wait, that’s a badger,” he said. “Look at it dig!”

Padre Island resident Tom Howe spotted the animal while searching for a fishing spot.

Padre Island resident Tom Howe spotted the animal while searching for a fishing spot.

Howe grabbed a camera from his vehicle and started snapping photos, capturing the badger as it ran into the waves and dug holes in the sand. Periodically, the animal paused its frantic activity, sniffed at the air, then plunged its sharp claws into the sand again, rooting out crabs and whatever other morsels might be hidden.

“Very few people have seen a badger out here. My neighbor two doors down, he practically lives on the beach … he’s only seen one,” he said.

Howe shared photos of the “once in a lifetime” sighting on his Facebook page and in a private wildlife group.

“OMG, I had no idea badgers lived that far south. This is amazing!” one commenter wrote in the private group post.

“Who would expect to see a badger at the beach!!” wrote another.

The badger seemed to be hunting for crabs and other small prey.

The badger seemed to be hunting for crabs and other small prey.

Some were even worried for the badger’s health.

“I hope you saw him make a catch and eat it,” a comment read. “He looks sad and scrawny.”

Howe thinks the badger is healthy, but being drenched in seawater is not the most flattering look.

While badgers live throughout much of the state, they are most prevalent in West Texas and “seem to prefer large tracts of open, uncultivated ground,” according to the state Parks and Wildlife Department. They’re tough animals with few predators.

Similar in size to a medium-size dog, badgers are powerfully built, with a “reputation for ferociousness when attacked,” McClatchy News reported.

Howe was roughly 50 yards away from the badger, and he had no interest in getting closer, he said.

“They avoid people with a passion and they’re mean,” he said. “They’re kind of aggressive like a wolverine.”

It’s uncommon to see a badger out in nature, even more so to spot one on the beach, and during daytime, Howe said.

“This was unusual behavior because it was about 11 o’clock in the morning,” he said.

Badgers are typically nocturnal animals, according to the National Park Service. However, “in remote places … they can occasionally be observed during the day,” NPS said.

The stretch of beach the badger was on could fit that bill, according to Howe. Few people were around, and the area is fairly rugged.

“You don’t want to come down here unless you’ve got four-wheel drive,” Howe said.

But Howe thinks there may be a different reason the badger had a beach day.

“There’s been such a drought that the fresh water ponds behind the dunes are all drying up, which means food becomes a little more scarce,” he said. “So its behavior is changing, it’s adapting to the environmental changes going on right now.”

Data shows that even Padre Island hasn’t been spared from the drought plaguing Texas.

Howe and his neighbors are praying that changes soon, he said.

Howe watched the badger continue its pattern of swimming and digging for 30 minutes before he moved on. He’s not sure what kept drawing it back to the water.

“I don’t know if it was bathing or cooling itself off from the heat,” he said.

If others are fortunate enough to come across the badger, Howe hopes they’ll keep their distance as he did.

“The badger is a wild animal,” he said. “Give it its space.”

Padre Island is roughly 30 miles southeast of Corpus Christi.

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