American badgers (Taxidea taxus) are semifossorial carnivores present in many arid regions of central and western North America. Negative demographic trends have prompted recent discussion concerning their conservation status in the northwestern portion of their range. As such, further information regarding the metapopulation structure of this species and factors affecting dispersal is needed. To provide a preliminary assessment of genetic structure and variation, badgers from Alberta and British Columbia, Canada, and Montana were sampled and genotyped at 12 microsatellite loci, including individuals from 2 subspecific designations: T. t. taxus and T. t. jeffersonii. Relatively high levels of genetic variation were observed (average expected heterozygosity [HE] = 77%). Gene flow between prairie populations of T. t. taxus did not seem to be restricted, nor did there seem to be a restriction of gene flow for populations within mountain ranges for T. t. jeffersonii. In contrast, minimal gene flow was observed between populations separated by mountain ranges. Our results support the current geographic delineation of the northwestern subspecies, T. t. taxus and T. t. jeffersonii, and have implications for their conservation by identifying genetically distinct units that may have independent population dynamics.
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