Although a few badgers live alone, most live together in groups
of between 2 and 20 individuals. A group of badgers living together is called a
clan (or sometimes a cete). A clan
is usually made up of several adults and their cubs. A typical clan
may have about 6 badgers.
The clan will normally occupy a single sett - which might be
quite large. However, the sett may also include other subsidiary
setts, which are used from time to time - for example by nursing
mothers, or badgers who are allowed to live nearby on the periphery
of the clan society.
In the clan, badgers are definitely "group-living" animals, but
they do have a "pecking order" in the
hierarchy. Mostly, the clan will be dominated by a single adult male
(called a boar), who will try and control all the females (called
sows) for breeding purposes. As young boars grow bigger, they will
try and rise up the pecking order to become the dominant boar. This
process will result in many of the younger badgers being ejected
from the clan, and they will either have to force their way into a
nearby clan, to form their own clan or to live alone. Sows also have
their own pecking order, and will try and rise up the hierarchy to
become the senior sow. It is believed that fewer females are ejected
from the clan.
Members of a clan can recognise each other by their smell. The badger
has a special opening (called the subcaudal gland) under its tail, which
produces a smelly liquid called musk. This musk is a soapy
cream-coloured fatty substance (a bit like margarine in colour and
texture). To a badger, with a highly
sophisticated sense of smell, every badger smells slightly
different. Members of a clan mark each other with this musk;
when they do this we say that badgers are musking or setting scent.
By "swapping smells" like this, each badger ends up with a
smell that is special to his or her clan. Accordingly, each badger
has their own unique smell, plus the common odour of the clan.
Importantly, though, badgers don't just use their musk to mark each other. They also
stop from time-to-time on their travels to leave scent on the
ground. This helps the badgers to find their way around their
sense of smell. In this way, badgers find it easier to follow
regular trails to and from good feeding grounds, as well as avoiding
encroaching on territories of other neighbouring badger clans.
The subcaudal musk gland is about 2.5 times larger in males than
in females; and contains 4 times as much musk as the same gland in
females. It is assumed that as well as using the musk to create an
overall clan odour, dominant males use this to "claim" other badgers
as being in their clan. In females, the scent provided by their
subcaudal gland may change throughout the year - probably indicating
whether they are receptive to mating.
Badgers also have an
additional pair of scent glands, which produce a dark brown fatty fluid which
has a powerful and rank musky smell. This pair of glands is located just inside
the bottom (anus).
Both these types of scent are used to denote membership of
the clan; and to mark the territory/range as belonging to that particular clan;
and hopefully deterring other badgers from coming in to steal food or mate with
If a badger leaves the clan it quickly loses its distinctive
"clan" smell. This is a great problem for animal rescuers,
as they need to rescue an injured animal, get it treated at a vets,
repaired, recuperated and returned to the clan as soon as possible.
Delays of as little as 24-hours can cause problems. On return to the
clan, if the badger is missing its expected clan smell it will be
dealt with as though it is an outsider. It will probably be bullied
by other badgers, and possibly ejected from the
clan or killed by other badgers.
Sometimes rescuers can get a badger back to the clan in good
time. During the rescue they will try and avoid imparting any of
their human smell on to the badger. If this is not possible, and there is a real risk of the badger
being rejected, it might be possible to "puppy-walk" the
badger around the territory, so the clan gets used to its smell once
again. This will make it a little more likely the other badgers will treat
the returning badger kindly, and not as a threatening intruder.
The other option is to place a rescued badger into a new sett.
This is easiest where there is an existing empty sett, and you can
place a group of rescued badgers into it as a new clan.
Sometimes people often get confused between the name of a group
- The badgers which live together as a family-type group is
called a clan.
- The collective noun for a group of badgers is a cete.
Journal of Animal Behaviour - Volume 97 No 1/2 - May
Scent Marking with Faeces and Anal Secretion in the
European Badger (Meles meles): Seasonal and Spatial Characteristics of
Latrine Use in Relation to Territoriality
T. J. Roper, D. J. Shepherdson and J. M. Davies
© 1986 BRILL.
(Meles meles) defecate and scent mark in open pits
('dung pits') which seem to have territorial significance. We carried
out a year-round survey of badger defecation sites in order to assess
seasonal and spatial characteristics of site use. Our results show that
badgers defecate at two different types of site, which we refer to as
'latrines' and 'temporary defecation sites' (TDS's) respectively.
Latrines are relatively large aggregations of dung pits (up to 25
separate pits) that are visited year-round; they are largest in spring
(April) and autumn (October); they are more numerous around the
perimeter of a territory; they are associated with fences and roads; and
they often contain anal-gland secretion as well as faeces. TDS's, by
contrast, are single dung pits or small aggregations of pits that are
used only once or twice and are then abandoned; they are most numerous
in mid-winter (December and January); they are scattered throughout the
territory both close to and away from fences and roads; and they do not
usually contain anal secretion. Spatial and seasonal changes in
frequency of TDS's are shown to correlate with food availability and
with foraging behaviour, and we conclude that TDS's have no special
function beyond elimination of faeces. Latrines, however, do seem to
have communicatory significance, and we conclude that they are concerned
with territory defence. Since seasonal changes in latrine use correlate
more closely with mating than with food availability we suggest that
territoriality in badgers may be related more to defence of oestrus
females by resident males than to defence of food resources.
Journal of Zoology Volume 237 Issue 2, Pages 227 -
Dispersal and philopatry in the European badger,
Rosie Woodroffe* , 1 , D. W. Macdonald 1 and J. da
Silva** , 1 1 Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of
Zoology, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK
*Department of Zoology, Downing Street, Combridge CB 23EJ, UK
**Department of Biology, Laurentian University, Ramsey Lake Road,
Sudbury, Ontario P3E 2C6, Canada
Copyright 1995 The Zoological Society of London
In comparison with other carnivores, European
badgers, Meles meles L., show an unusually high degree of natal
philopatry. In this paper, we present data on temporary and permanent
movements between groups, in both male and female badgers, in a
moderately high density population. A relatively small proportion of
males dispersed, alone, to neighbouring territories. Dispersing males
were larger than those remaining in their natal groups, and following
dispersal they had higher testosterone titres and maintained testicular
activity for a greater part of the year. Circumstantial evidence
suggests that immigrants were the principal breeding males in their new
territories. Dispersal was slightly more common in females, which
dispersed away from large groups, where their chances of breeding were
relatively low. Females dispersed in coalitions of 23, over longer
distances, to territories occupied by single females. Resident females
disappeared following the arrival of the immigrants, suggesting that
territory 'takeovers' may have occurred. Members of both sexes also made
temporary 'visits' to neighbouring territories, probably to obtain
extra-group matings. Comparison with other badger populations suggests
that the frequency of male dispersal declines at high population
densities. In contrast, there is no effect of density on female
dispersal, which occurs only rarely in some other populations. We
suggest that the pattern of female/female competition is too complex to
be explained solely in terms of variation in population density.
Mammal Review Volume 18 Issue 1, Pages 51 - 59
Comparison of dispersal and other movements in two
Badger (Meles meles) populations
C. L. CHEESEMAN 1 , W. J. CRESSWELL*, S. HARRIS* ,
P. J. MALLINSON 1 1 Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food,
Worplesdon Laboratory, Tangley Place, Worplesdon, Guildford, Surrey GU3
3LQ *Department of Zoology, University of Bristol, Woodland Road,
Bristol BS81UG To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Copyright 1988 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and The
The dispersal and other movement patterns in two
Badger populations, one in rural Gloucestershire and the other in
suburban Bristol, are described and categorized into nine different
types of movement. Movements were less common in the high density Badger
population in Gloucestershire, but disturbance increased the likelihood
of movements occurring. In the lower density Bristol population, where
the social structure was more fluid, movements were more common.
However, in both populations truly itinerant Badgers appeared to be
rare. More male than female Badgers moved, but for each type of movement
there was no difference in the distance moved by males and females.
Movements were rare in animals less than a year old; most movements
occurred in sexually mature animals, i.e. those more than 2 years old.