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"(Brocky) was the most animated and noisy sleeper I have ever come across. He snored just liked some asthmatic old man, and the snoring would be interspersed with heaving sighs. He had dreams or nightmares when his legs would start to twitch, and his rate of breathing would increase until he was actually panting as though running."
From Page 65-66 of Brocky the Badger by Sylvia Shepherd

Detailed Badger Sounds

Introduction

There are various researchers who record badger sounds to an unprecedented degree; and analyse their exact tones and pitches to decipher meanings. In other words, to the lay-person, these clever researchers try to understand badger "language". Of course, some badger talk might seem obvious to the ordinary badger-watcher - two badgers involved in a serious fight, both making "growling" noises; the growl is clearly an aggressive part of the badgers range of dialog.

However, not all such sounds are so clear; and one badger may use a series of different sounds within the context of a single overall message. For example, when cubs are engaged in play-fighting (or where there is great excitement in the clan) there may be a whole range of noises which merge together in quick succession.

As many badger watchers view in conditions of near darkness (where it is difficult to see what the badgers are doing at all times) many would like to know what badgers are trying to say to one another. Hopefully these short descriptions of the various sound types will help you out a little.

Remember though that badgers also have a very good sense of smell and certainly use distinct body-language to aid communication. The overall "message" from one badger to another is a combination of sound, smell and body language. Importantly too, badger society has a certain hierarchy (with top-, middle- and lower-ranking badgers). If you make a close study of a single badger clan you will probably find that it tends to be the more senior members of the badger clan who are the most aggressive.

The Real Experts

To help you out, we give a short summary of some badger sounds with a link to where you can hear them. We do not provide the sounds themselves on www.badgerland.co.uk , but instead link to the sound files stored on the following web-site:

This linked web-site (part of Oxford University) includes detailed explanations about badger sounds, as well as providing software for analysing them.

Who Says What

The badger's vocal repertoire consists of at least sixteen discrete calls, varying from long, low pitched growls to short, high-pitched squeaks and bird-like coos.

Churrs, purrs, and keckers seem to be restricted to adults only, while chirps, clucks, coos, squeaks and wails are confined to the badger cub's repertoire. The remaining calls may be expressed by both adults and cubs.

The most easily distinguished discrete calls are the churr, growl, kecker, yelp and the wail - others are distinct, discrete calls but show structural similarities to these five call types.

During the mating season the most frequently heard calls are the male churrs and the female yelps.

Badger Sounds and Call Descriptions

Calls can be played back by clicking on their names (in the left-hand column below).

SOUND: DESCRIPTION:
The Churr The Churr is essentially a mating call. It is an 'insistent, deep, throaty, vibrant purr with an oily, bubbling quality'. It has structural similarity to the female purr.
The Purr The Purr is similar to the Churr, but softer and less intense. Both calls are specific to the mother and directed solely towards her offspring. The purr may be used when grooming or carrying the cubs, to call cubs from the sett, or to encourage the cubs to follow and stay close.
The Wail The Wail is the call of an infant in distress, usually when the cub is isolated from the mother. As infant distress increases, so does the intensity and rate of wailing.
The Chitter The Chitter is a relatively short, high-pitched, querulous chatter.
Adult chitter is used in the context of pain / fear and frustration / anxiousness. The chitter is often used by the female, either when she is being harassed by a male intending to mate, or to signal pain or fear during mating. In cubs it is heard mainly during excited social play.
A gentle variant of the Chitter is the call referred to as the "Whicker", a sound like the whinny of the horse often used in situations of mild frustration.
The Kecker The Kecker is a relatively long, single sound, similar in structure to the Chitter. This call is used primarily in the contexts of threat/submission, attack and fighting. As fighting becomes more serious, the intensity, emission rate and amplitude of intermittent keckering may increase.
The Growl Growls are low-pitched, rumbling sounds which are sustained and coarse. The growl is the longest badger sound. The growl is associated with warning or defence, produced most commonly by adults in the presence of food or young, or when an unfamiliar individual enters the territory. It usually serves to elicit a retreat on the part of the receiver.
The Snarl Snarls are moderate pitched, single, sounds - usually over a second in duration. This call is used primarily in the threat/attack context and, unlike the growl, almost always precedes attack. Such calls are often nearly simultaneous between individuals involved in high intensity aggression.
The Yelp Adult yelps are given mostly in series, and are often heard in sequence with chitters. The yelp is used primarily in the context of pain and/or fear, being employed to signal actual pain or perhaps fear in anticipation of pain. In adults it is most commonly used by females before and/or during mating.
The Squeak The squeak is a very short, shrill, high-pitched call, similar to the yelp. The cub squeak is found in the context of frustration and anxiousness, when the cub is separated from its mother, or in play.
The Bark The Bark resembles the bark of a small dog. The bark is usually heard during play, or in the startle/surprise and warning/defence contexts. Barking in adults functions primarily to warn off an approaching badger. The bark may also be heard during mating, when either one of badger is being annoyed by another.
The Snort Snorts are used only in the startle / surprise context, and is most commonly elicited when one badger is surprised by another. The surprised badger may jump back. The snort may be used to startle a potential predator.
The Cluck Restricted to cubs, the cluck is a bird-like sound, resembling the soft quacks of ducks. The cluck is heard during greeting, grooming, and play, and is associated with close contact.
The Coo The coo is an extremely soft, dove-like call that is usually heard in isolation. The coo is a close range contact call of the cub.
The Chirp Chirps have only been heard from cubs. They are moderate-pitched, soft, bird-like sounds. They are single, short sounds, usually heard in series.
The Hiss Hisses are unvoiced, sharp, cat-like sounds. They are emitted in isolation, with growls and snarls primarily in the context of warning or defence. They often intimidate the recipient.
The Grunt The grunt is a relatively short, low pitched, blunt sound. Unlike the adult grunt, cub grunts are sometimes used in series. This call is associated with close contact - such as grooming.

Badger Volunteers?
The WildCRU at Oxford University often need people to help do badger surveys. You can work with some of the best badger researchers in the UK AND learn about our favourite wild mammal.
For more info, click Jobs at the WildCRU.