Dead Animals and Birds (Carrion)
Also known as 'carrion', dead animals and birds can be very
important in winter, when other food is hard to find.
Carrion can be eaten by badgers living in upland areas, but
genuine, proven predation of farm livestock is exceptionally rare.
There are many anecdotal reports of badgers having been seen
eating animals such as lambs, calves,
and so on.
People often jump to the largely incorrect conclusion that because a badger is
seen eating an animal, it actually killed that animal. The
badger has a very wide-ranging diet and is a very opportunistic feeder.
It will eat almost anything which it thinks might be edible, and
it will even eat some things which clearly are not. One badger was
even seen eating large pieces of the metal tray from a Marks and Spencer's
In short, if a badger comes across any dead animal carcass, it will
usually eat it.
a pet owner, for example, you would find it terribly distressing
to see your cat run over by a speeding car. To the badger, a dead
(or dying) cat at the side of the road provides a free meal. Of
course, animals with four-legs can suffer with the most horrendous
injuries to their spinal cord, legs and internal organs, and still
manage to drag themselves a
considerable distance away from the road accident before they
finally die. This is why the vast majority of the reports along
the lines of
"a badger killed my cat in the woods" are false. The
majority of cases are explained by the fact that the cat died in
the woods (for example, after a road accident, or due to a fox or
a dog; or even due to old age or other illness); and the badger
has been seen eating the carcass.
It may also be
that a dead animal was carried away from the roadside by a fox,
which has then been "mugged" for the meal by a larger or
There are also other reports of badgers having been seen eating
truly enormous carcasses (like dead sheep,
Deer, cows and horses). We
have even heard reports that a badger was wrongly accused of
killing an ostrich. Despite the bizarre reporting from the 19th Century Newspapers, a badger
can not kill a sheep, a deer, a cow or or a horse (or an ostrich).
The smaller animals, normally have good senses or eyesight,
hearing or smell, and will do all they can to avoid badgers. A
hedgehog, for example, will avoid any area in which it can smell
"fresh" badger urine or musk. Rabbits and hares will
generally outrun a badger with ease.
The only wild animals which are at "risk" tend to be
young immobile "vermin" species like baby rabbits, rats
and mice; and a few slow moving ones like hedgehogs and frogs.
In short, badgers only very rarely kill any healthy animal
larger than a baby rabbit. For many people, badgers provide a very
useful overall benefit in the countryside. The little damage they
actually do, is balanced out very well by the good they do in
eating vermin species (like rabbits, mice, rats and insect pests)
and in tidying up the countryside by eating carrion.
Old Wives Tails
"Badgers kill baby lambs" - Not usually Correct.
opportunistic feeders, and will eat a wide variety of foods they
come across. Like we have said before, lambs that have already died may be eaten by badgers,
but badgers do not kill lambs as a rule. The lambs may well have died from
natural causes, exposure (being too cold or wet), infection or by
dogs or foxes. It may also be that the lamb was born in such poor
health, that it could not survive beyond a few hours out in the
open anyway. Foxes and loose dogs will kill lambs, but badgers do
not. It may be distressing to think of, but a badger (fox or
dog) killing a tiny sickly lamb that has only hours or less to
live; is only doing what the farmer or the vet would see happen
in a natural way.
In cases of exceptional rarity an isolated rogue badger may be
believed to be killing lambs. Normally in such circumstances, the
badger will be killed under licence from DEFRA (although
Badgerland suspect that quite a few innocent badgers may be killed under
this heading too).
"Badgers kill cats and dogs" - Not usually Correct.
reason as before, people very occasionally see badgers eating dead
cats or dogs, but these are generally carcasses the badger has come across,
and not killed itself. That said, if a cat or dog is inexperienced
enough to pick a fight with a badger, then this might result in a
fight, and this might result in a poor cat or dog being killed.
In our experience, very few pets are suicidal enough to fight a
badger, and most very quickly decide to return to the safety of
the family home as soon as the badger shows it's teeth and claws.
The riskiest situation for a pet cat or dog, is that injury, old age or
illness means it can't outrun a badger; or you are feeding it in a
location where it can be cornered. Accordingly, we would say to
feed your cat inside the house, and not in an enclosed alleyway or
Another "high-risk" situation is if your pet has moved
into a new area; and it has yet to learn how to "fit in"
to the local wildlife society. Cats and dogs can sometimes be too
territorial for their own good; and a very few may be injured by a
badger if they don't use their feline or canine intuition properly
and back down. The best course of action is to keep your pets
indoors during the hours from dusk to dawn; unless you are with
"Badgers kill loads of chickens" - Not usually Correct.
It is very rare
for a badger to kill a chicken. If chickens are locked in a secure
at night, they will be safe from foxes, dogs, badgers and
Sometimes, a badger will kill a slow-footed chicken - especially
if the badger can gain access to the coop (for example by you leaving
a door open or ajar, or by having too flimsy a stockade). On other
occasions, badgers will "mug" other animals for
carcasses. For example, stealing a chicken from a fox or a dog
would be seen as fair game to a badger. Otherwise, chicken are normally safe in their coop at night.
You do need to be 100% sure that all the chickens are safe in the coop - as some
free-range birds tend to find their own roosts and nests outside a stockade and
these individuals will be at prime risk of predation by many species.
However, you need to safeguard your own poultry, by keeping sheds
very secure. This means checking that floors, walls and doors are made
from substantial thicknesses of wood; and that the wood remains in
good condition (and not rotted away from the effects of dung and
As an adult badger can move a 25kg stone to get at food underneath
it, you need to make sure that doors are strong and rigid; and
inspected regularly to check for rot and weakness.
"Badgers kill valuable game birds" - Not
They may eat dead birds, but a well-known national gamekeepers association
gave advice that badgers are not a threat to most ground-nesting birds.
Unlike foxes, badgers do not seem to eat the eggs or chicks of
ground nesting birds in significant numbers. In all probability, their eyesight it not good enough to
see the camouflaged nests or chicks. In any event, the major cause
of death of many ground-nesting species (such as lapwing, curlew, etc) is from
farm animals (such as cattle and sheep) who trample or lay down over over the