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Janice Buechel ’02

It’s a fact. According to The Bucky Badger Story by Gwen Schultz, badgers were a part of Wisconsin’s history even before it became a state. In the early 1800s, when lead was discovered in Wisconsin, settlers came here in droves to mine for the metal. At that time, badgers were abundant in southwestern Wisconsin, which had a prairie habitat favored by the ferocious creatures, so they would have been a familiar sight. The settlers who worked in Wisconsin’s lead mines were nicknamed “badgers” because many of them lived in burrow-like dwellings through the winter, much like a badger in hibernation would. And, badgers were known for their digging skills, much like the miners. Because the lead industry was so important in Wisconsin’s early days, the badger was honored in 1851 with a place atop the state seal, along with a miner holding a pick. Shortly after football became an official sport at the UW in 1889, the badger was adopted as an athletic mascot, and so began Wisconsin’s love affair with the mighty mustelid.

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