Badgers live in sociable groups (clans) of up to
2-20 adults (although 6 badgers is more usual). The
badgers dig out and live in a maze of underground tunnels and
chambers called a sett. Badgers will enlarge tunnels every few
metres to form convenient passing places. The main sett is occupied
all year round and is a permanent home. Some such badger setts are
known to be around 100 years old. Around each main sett in the
badgers territory, there are
others that are used sporadically throughout the year, often between
January and March when the cubs are born.
Badgers like to build their setts into sloping ground in
woodlands, especially where the drainage is good and the soil is not
too heavy to dig. Sandy soil seems to be well-liked, and heavy clay
Badgers are rarely seen during the day, and forage for food
mainly at night. Their favourite foods are
insects and other creepy crawlies,
roots, bulbs and tubers,
fruit and berries. They may on occasion catch a young rabbit
or even a frog.
They are powerful animals about the size of a
spaniel, and the male (called a boar), weighing up to 12 kilos, is
slightly larger than the female (called a sow).
Frequently only one female badger (called a sow) in a social group
although occasionally two or more may do so. This explains to some
degree why badger populations can be decimated so quickly - if
from two or three successive years fail to reach adulthood, the badger clan can be on the brink of extinction.
Sadly too, badgers suffer from stress, and this can result in
pregnant sows losing their unborn cubs. Activities such as digging
out a sett, aggressive dogs in the sett, building works and other
obvious nuisances can result in serious stress and badger cubs
Whilst badgers do not hibernate in the winter, they do become
slower and less active. This usually starts from November and lasts
until the early spring. This is known as a winter
"torpor", and is really characterised by having a few
sleepy days and lazy nights, as opposed to a recognised hibernation.
During this period, badgers will emerge only to use their latrines
and get the minimum of food, bedding, scent marking and territorial
Badgers are exceptionally clean living animals, and will refresh
their bedding materials every day or two. Bedding materials will
normally be grass, moss, leaves and so on. This provides a soft
mattress to provide insulation from the cold ground, and to reduce
draughts in the nesting chamber.
Litters of two or three cubs are usually born in February -
although there is some evidence that cubs are born later the further
north or the higher up you go in the UK.