Opinion | Biff America: Killer with cool hair
The honey badger is much like me at a buffet when my mate isn’t around; it will eat anything.
“Badger” is a bit misleading. It is built more like a weasel. Males weigh about 35 pounds, and it has dark fur with a mohawk-like shock of white hair on top.
It looks a little like Roger Stone without the glasses.
The badger is known for being perhaps the most ferocious critter in the animal kingdom. As the name implies, it loves honey and will ravage beehives and eat until bloated. It has thick skin (much like mine when my mate rates my dancing) and is mostly impervious to the stings. It also kills and eats frogs, lizards and snakes. It eats its prey completely — hair, skin, bones and shells.
It has some sort of immunity to venom along with its thick skin. Supposedly it will attack the deadly black mamba snake, killing it, but getting bitten in the process. The snake’s venom doesn’t kill the badger, but just makes it sleepy. After killing the mamba, the honey badger will simply take a nap next to the dead snake, wakes up a half-hour later and eat it whole.
I don’t claim to be a honey badger expert. In fact, what I just wrote is the extent of my knowledge. I was at the gym listening to a podcast where the creature was featured. I was impressed when I learned that the badger can eat an entire turtle, hard shell and all, and has a “reversible anal pouch” which can produce a horrible smell at will. (Coincidently, I shared a gondola with a guy like that).
As soon as I got home, I did a web search and found this amazing video.
I’m guessing there were a bunch of hidden cameras in some sort of nature preserve in Africa where the badger is found. The video was kind of like “A day in the life of a honey badger,” and it was brutal. It features the badger going around killing and eating stuff — lizards, turtles, rodents. Eventually, the badger happened upon a huge snake, just chilling and lying in the sun.
Next thing you know, it pounces on the snake (which looked to be 5 or 6 feet long). According to the narration, the snake was poisonous. It made a few feeble attempts to bite the badger, but mostly it just tried to get away.
Finally the snake managed to slither into some sort of a burrow and escaped.
I thought that was the end of it.
But, undaunted, the honey badger starts burrowing into the snake’s hole and yanks the snake out. What followed was a death battle between reptile and badger that lasted several minutes. To make a long video short (spoiler alert) the badger eventually bites off the snake’s head and eats it whole.
Yes, there is a point to this dispatch. As I watched in the video of the honey badger killing and eating other creatures who were simply minding their own business, I found myself rooting for the badger, even when it attacked and ate a slow moving, gentle turtle, shell and all.
I’ve always prided myself of being a champion of the underdog, and here I was cheering on a four-legged garbage disposal with crazy hair as it killed and ate creatures who were just trying to live their lives unmolested. Finally it dawned on me. It was because the badger reminded me of my people. Not Irish, liberal, or American, but mammal. The badger was furry, warmblooded, had a cool haircut and everything. It was killing was a reptile; to me their lives had less value.
Now, of course, the badger is just displaying its genetic predisposition. Alfred, Lord Tennyson writes about animals adhering to nature’s law of “tooth and claw,” but contrasts that with humans’ better nature of faith, love and fellowship.
There is no good reason why I (or anyone) would value the life of one living thing over another simply because that thing was a mammal or even American. But, in my weaker moments, I seem to do just that. I’ll hear of a bus crash or hurricane or some other such tragedy and breathe a sigh of relief when I learn it happened in another nation.
I would like to think this is merely part of the current/temporary human condition that our species has not evolved to the hopes of Tennyson. Perhaps in time we will live up to those lofty expectations.
But it the meantime, it was wicked cool to see that badger eat that turtle.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at email@example.com.
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