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About how badgers live their lives across the UK
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"What is important about the badger is that it has survived. It is still here. It has not, like so many of our wild animals, the wolf, the wild-boar, as well as the bear, been hunted into extinction. Man might have done his best to wipe it out, but he has failed."
Ernest Dudley

Introduction to Badgers
Latin Name: Meles meles

Size

The Badger grows up to 30 inches (750 mm) from head to tail - with a six-inch (150 mm) tail, and weighs up to about 10 to 12 kg.

The female badger is slightly smaller than the male, and the male has a slightly broader head and looks a little more muscular. The females tend to have a shorter bushy tail; whereas the males tend to have a longer, thinner pointed tail which has a little more white on it.

Pelage/fur

Their coarse coat of hair is black and white - leading to a grey appearance from a distance. The hair from their back is up to 75mm long and has a black pointed tip.

The badger has a black chest and forepaws; with a prominent black and white striped head with white ear-tips. Hair from the head, face, legs and underside is shorter.

They do shed their hair, and it is often possible to find badger hair on or in the soil at or near a badger sett. Badgers also undergo a seasonal moult - where they tend to shed more hair in the summer (when there is more daylight and higher temperatures), before growing more hair again at the start of the winter (when the amount of daylight has reduced and the temperature is lower).

Habitat

It lives in or near the edge of woods and copses, especially if attached to pastureland. Occasionally it can be seen in suburbs; and on the edge of farmland and in abandoned quarries.

Badgers have a widespread distribution in the UK, with more in the wild/wet areas of the south and south-west, and fewer in flat and farmed areas, and above 900m. Given that they live underground, their setts are normally dug into sloping ground which remains above the typical water table, so are not normally abundant in flood-prone areas.

Young

Mating usually occurs in July, but implantation can be delayed by 2 to 10 months. After then the badger is properly pregnant for about seven weeks.

There is normally a single litter of between 2 and 3 cubs born from January to March. The cubs are born with their eyes and ears closed, with dirty white fur on their upper body only.

Many cubs die within their first year, although those that do survive, often live for up to five years or more.

Nest

Badgers live in groups of up to 2 to 20 (but normally around 6) in an earthen sett. The sett is lined with moss, grass and leaves which the badger renews frequently. Often there will also be a special outlier sett (containing fewer nesting chambers) away from the main sett.

Diet

Although the badger is classed as a carnivore (it has large canine teeth), it is essentially omnivorous. As well as earthworms, beetles, voles, mice, frogs, snails and wasps, it also eats acorns, beech mast, bulbs, fruits and roots. Essentially it is a forager (eating what it finds), rather than a hunter which chases after prey.

Compared to the fox, the badger has a longer gut to cope with it having a more wide-ranging diet.

Voice

Badger cubs sometimes make a high-pitched whickering sound. Adults growl or bark as a warning or purr with pleasure. They are also known to emit a long-drawn scream (reason unknown). More details of the noises they make is on the Sounds and Detailed Badger Sounds pages.

Status

Generally the badger is well distributed across the UK, although it remains as an illegally persecuted animal in too many areas.

Badgers have been described as the oldest land-owners in Britain. Long before Britain was an island they were here.

They belong to the same family of mammals that have musk-bearing glands under their tails - including Otters, Polecats, Ferrets, Mink, Stoats, Weasels, Pine Martens and Wolverines.

Predators

Many badgers are killed by gamekeepers and farmers, cubs sometimes killed by Dogs and Foxes. Other and killed by men who kill them for so-called sport - either by shooting them with hunting rifles or allowing them to be killed by one or more large dogs.

Many other badgers are killed on the roads and railways.

Badgers are Key Species

Thousands of years ago, the UK contained populations of bears and wolves; and there is little doubt that they preyed on badgers. However, now that bears and wolves are extinct in the wild in Britain, badgers are pretty much at the top of the ecological tree. They are a key species; who rightly deserve to maintain their place in the ecology of Britain. Removing badgers from an area results in major changes for the ecology of other species. The number of pests increase without badgers, so rabbit, rate and mouse problems get worse. Fox numbers increase, which leads to other protected wildlife species numbers falling rapidly. In a very real sense, the presence of the badgers helps to keep fox numbers down; which allows brown and mountain hares to maintain their relatively low population levels.