Size no issue for 'happy' badger burying calf

A lone badger has been filmed for the first time burying an entire dead calf almost four times its own size.

It is a behaviour which hasn't been documented by science before and it was captured by accident by a University of Utah biologist studying scavenger behaviour in Utah's Great Basin desert.

Timelapse footage of the burial was posted as part of the study, published in Western North American Naturalist, with Benny Hill's 'Yakety Sax' playing underneath it giving it a comical feel.

While the American badger is known to hide food such as rodents and rabbits, the video suggests size isn't a problem for the scavenger and they could help cattle ranchers get rid of carcasses.

It took five days for the animal to completely bury the 22kg carcass. They normally bury their food to keep it from other scavengers and so it'll last longer - "like putting it in the fridge", doctoral candidate Evan Beuchley says.

Study first author Ethan Frehner says there are still big gaps in knowledge about badgers' behaviour in the wild because they spend much of their time underground.

"This is a substantial behaviour that wasn't known about at all," he says.

The study itself wasn't meant to look at badgers, it was meant to get a better idea of the area's ecology of scavengers.

In January 2016, seven calf carcasses were set out in the desert and were staked down and a camera trap set up to document which scavengers visited which sites.

Mr Beuchley visited the sites a week later and noticed an entire carcass was missing.

He didn't immediately realise the significance, thinking it was a coyote or mountain lion which dragged the carcass away.

He went looking for it, but realised the ground around where the calf had been placed had been disturbed.

"Watching badgers undertake this massive excavation around and underneath is impressive," Mr Frehner says.

"It's a lot of excavation engineering they put into accomplishing this."

Tara Christensen, who also participated in the study and put the timelapse together, says the badger looked pretty pleased with itself as it sat atop its burrow.

"Not to anthropomorphise too much, but he looks like a really really happy badger, rolling in the dirt and living the high life."