It all started with the elementary aged children of Atty. Richard Smith of Jefferson, Wisconsin.
To Wisconsinites, the badger was, and still is, considered a Wisconsin icon. And so it was with Atty. Smith's children.
Wisconsin has been well known as "the badger state," at least since the 1820s when lead miners in Wisconsin and northwestern Illinois fashioned living quarters in hillside caves to escape the elements.
The official state song reveres the "Grand old badger state!" The state coat-of-arms, found on the state seal and the state flag, displays a badger. Badger representations are found throughout the interior of the state capitol and a badger can also be found peaking out from the helmet of the "golden lady ?Wisconsin'" that stands atop the capitol dome. And, of course, the badger is the mascot of University of Wisconsin athletic teams.
Leslie, Kristen, Greg, and Erik saw the badger in this light.
A historical society pamphlet, however, made them realize that the badger had never been officially recognized as a symbol of Wisconsin.
Their response was, naturally, to think of Bucky Badger, the University of Wisconsin mascot. Today, Bucky isn't a real badger. He's a costumed student whose sole purpose is to entertain and encourage athletes and spectators alike. But Bucky is recognized all over Wisconsin.
The Smiths contacted their state representative and persuaded him that there was a good case for making Bucky Beaver the official state animal of Wisconsin.
In January, of 1957, Assemblyman (State Representative) Byron Wackett introduced a bill proposing that Bucky Badger be named the official state animal of Wisconsin.
Almost, immediately opposition to the measure rose in the House. A serious challenge rose from a group of northern county assemblymen who crafted a bill naming the white-tailed deer as the official state animal.
"There is no such animal as a "Bucky Badger," scoffs [sic] Assemblyman David Blanchard, Edgerton, adding that "It's rather trite." [ 1 ]
David Blanchard, Willis Hutnik, and Earl Morton, bill sponsors, thought that the white-tailed deer would better serve conservation, hunting, and tourism interests.
From January through April of 1957 the conflict of ideas continued. Amendments were proposed and shouted or voted down.
Newspapers came out in support of Bucky Badger.
Assemblyman Wackett quoted from a letter written by 11-year-old Greg Gilbertson:
"Everybody thinks Bucky Badger is the state animal." [ 1 ]
Greg went on to say that, if the white-tailed deer was adopted as a state symbol,
"the University (of Wisconsin) won't have a mascot, we will have to change the seal and the flag . . . and we'll have to take down the statue at the capitol." [ 1 ]
Assemblyman Wackett also quoted, rather misquoted or paraphrased, from the book of Isaiah in the Bible: "The lamb and the lion shall lie down together, and the calf and fatling too, and a little child shall lead them." [ 1 ]
"Anything wrong letting a little child lead you?" asked Wackett of the assembly's conservation committee [ 1 ]
To which, Assemblyman Hutnik, one of the three sponsors of the white-tailed deer bill, responded
"There is more to naming a state animal than a few quips and a few facetious remarks. Our nickname is going to remain the Badger State no matter what the official animal is. Let's name it an animal we can be proud of." [ 1 ]
Assemblyman Warren Grady proposed an amendment naming the water spaniel as a candidate for Wisconsin officialdom. The breed was developed in Wisconsin and Grady thought it an appropriate alternative or addition. Others on the committee were not so excited by the idea and the amendment was shouted down amid of chorus of "woof, woof."
Undeterred, Grady proposed the Holstein cow, enumerating its economic importance in Wisconsin. For a second time, Assemblyman Grady incurred rejection. The amendment, greeted with boos and moos, was killed by a voice vote of the committee. [ NOTE: The dairy cow was made Wisconsin's official domestic animal in 1971. ]
Bucky Beaver had plenty of backing, but the white-tailed deer legislation was tenacious and would not die.
In the end, it was decided that two bills, one naming the badger, without regard to a specific badger, be named the official state animal and another designating the white-tailed deer be named the official wild life animal would be moved forward.
[Published June 20, 1957. No. 76, A.]
AN ACT to amend 1.10 of the statutes, relating to "Bucky Badger," the Wisconsin state animal.
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do enact as follows:
1.10 of the statutes is amended to read:
1.10 STATE TREE, FLOWER, BIRD, FISH, ANIMAL. The Wisconsin state tree is the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) ; the Wisconsin state flower is the wood violet (Viola papilionacea) ; the Wisconsin state bird is the robin (Turdus migratorius) ; the Wisconsin state fish is the muskellunge (Esox masquinongy masquinongy Mitchell) ; the Wisconsin state animal is the badger (Taxidea taxus).
Approved June 17, 1957.
Not Bucky, but a generic badger became Wisconsin's official state animal when the final legislation was signed by Governor Vernon Thomson on June 17, 1957.
The following information was excerpted from the 2011-12 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations, Chapter 1, Section 1.10.
CHAPTER 1 SOVEREIGNTY AND JURISDICTION OF THE STATE
1.10 State song, state ballad, state waltz, state dance, and state symbols.
(3) The Wisconsin state symbols are as follows:
(a) The mourning dove (Zenaidura macroura corolinensis Linnaeus) is the symbol of peace.
(b) Milk is the state beverage.
(c) The sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is the state tree.
(d) Corn (Zea mays) is the state grain.
(e) The wood violet (Viola papilionacea) is the state flower.
(f) The robin (Turdus migratorius) is the state bird.
(g) The muskellunge (Esox masquinongy masquinongy Mitchell) is the state fish.
(h) The badger (Taxidea taxus) is the state animal.
(i) The dairy cow (Bos taurus) is the state domestic animal.
(j) The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is the state wildlife animal.
(k) The American water spaniel is the state dog.
(L) The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is the state insect.
(m) The trilobite (Calymene celebra) is the state fossil.
(n) Galena (lead sulfide) is the state mineral.
(o) Red granite is the state rock.
(p) Antigo silt loam (Typic Glossoboralf) is the state soil.
(r) The cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is the state fruit.
(s) The tartan whose thread count is described in this paragraph is the state tartan. The thread count for the state tartan shall begin with 44 threads of muted blue, followed by 6 threads of scarlet, 4 threads of muted blue, 6 threads of gray, 28 threads of black, 40 threads of dark green, 4 threads of dark yellow, 40 threads of dark green, 28 threads of black, 22 threads of muted blue, and 12 threads of dark brown, at which point the weave reverses, going through 22 threads of muted blue, and continuing the sequence in reverse order until the weave reaches the beginning point of 44 threads of muted blue, at which point the weave reverses again.
(t) The kringle is the state pastry.
"Wisconsin State Symbols." State of Wisconsin 2013-1014 Blue Book. Madison: 2013.
"Deer, Cow and Dog Trail Badger as State Animal." Janesville Daily Gazette 12 Apr 1957, 1. Print.
"Badger and Deer Bill Awaiting Signature." Ironwood Daily Globe 11 May 1957, 1. Print.
[ 1 ] "Fight To Pin Badger On Wisconsin Books." Stars & Stripes 25 Feb 1957, Pacific 7. Print.
"Area Solons Clash Over Deer, Badger." Janesville Daily Gazette 11 Feb 1957, 11. Print.
"Retired Teachers Would Benefit by New Measure." Janesville Daily Gazette 20 Jan 1957, 18. Print.
Thrane, Susan W., and Tom Patterson. State Houses: America's 50 State Capitol Buildings. First Printing. Ontario: Boston Mills Press, 2005. 204-209. Print.
"Wisconsin Legislative Documents Archive." Legislative Reference Bureau. State of Wisconsin, . Web. 7 Dec 2013. .
"2011-12 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations." Legislative Reference Bureau. State of Wisconsin, 6 Dec 2013. Web. 7 Dec 2013.
Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide Third Edition, Revised and Expanded. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 3 Sub edition, 2001.
Do You Want to Be A Badger?: "Wisconsin State Animal," Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: Environmental Education for Kids.
Wisconsin State Animal: Wisconsin Historical Society.
Bucky Badger Bio: The Official Athletic Site of the Wisconsin Badgers.
American Badger - Taxidea taxus: New Hampshire Public Television: NatureWorks.
American Badger (Taxidea taxus): National Wildlife Foundation's eNature.com field guide.
Taxidea taxus (American Badger): Smithsonian Museum of Natural History - North American Mammals.
Taxidea taxus (North American Badger): Encyclopedia of Life.
Puma concolor coryi (New Mexico Panther): The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology: Animal Diversity Web.
Taxidea taxus - (Schreber, 1777), American Badger: A network connecting science with conservation - NatureServe Explorer: An Online Encyclopedia of Life.
Taxidea taxus (Schreber, 1777): Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Here you will find authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.
State animals: Complete list of official state animals from NETSTATE.COM
More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Wisconsin state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.
Badger's Burrow, by Dee Phillips. 24 pages. Publisher: Bearport Publishing (January 2013) Reading level: Grades 2-4.
As night falls, a striped little face peeks out from a large hole that?s been dug into a bank. Then, a stocky, hairy body emerges from the hole. The animal is a badger, and it's leaving its burrow to spend the night hunting for prairie dogs, rats, and other small animals.
Filled with information perfectly suited to the abilities and interests of its early elementary school audience, Badger's Burrow gives young readers a chance not only to learn, but also to develop their powers of observation and critical thinking through activities and questions. Clear text and colorful photos and diagrams will engage young readers as they learn about the natural habitat, physical characteristics, diet, and behavior of badgers.
Badger, by Michael Leach. 32 pages. Publisher: Powerkids Press (September 2008) Reading level: Grades 2+.
Badger follows the life cycle of a badger, from a cub's first steps out of its den to finding a mate. You can find out about some of the different habitats that are the badger's home, from urban gardens to remote woodlands, and about the threats facing badgers today and why some people see them as pests. Not always one of the friendliest neighbors, the badger can be quite fierce. You can also be an 'animal detective' and find out how you can tell if a badger has been in your neighborhood. It includes an animal map, locator map, life cycle summary and 'unusual fact' boxes.