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Treatment of Badgers

Caution - Badgers!
Get expert help before you deal with an injured badger! Ideally, find some-one who has been trained to handle a badger.
Approach every badger with extreme care - even one which is apparently comatose may move suddenly! If the badger appears unconscious, use a stout stick and carefully prod the sensitive areas near the eyes and mouth, to check that it really is unconscious. Stay out of reach of its teeth or claws and remember that badgers may inflict severe bites! Keep stout stick between you and the badgers mouth, so it can bite the stick before it can bite you. NEVER pick up a badger by the tail. If the badger struggles, it will be able to bite or scratch you anyway; and you may end up dislocating its tail too.
Caution - Veterinary Advice!
These notes are provided ONLY as a rough and ready guide to students who are learning about veterinary practice, wild animals and badgers.
This information on this page is intended ONLY as an approximate guide to what may happen in one particular circumstance.
It does not constitute advice for Veterinary Practices.
Badgerland are not qualified in the field of veterinary medicine.
Reference must always be made to the BSAVA manual of Wildlife Casualty Care for up-to-date advice.
Some of the following information has been extracted from:
Other sources have also been used.


As badgers are relatively common throughout the UK, so badger casualties are often seen at Veterinary surgeries and at Wildlife Hospitals for care and rehabilitation.

Generally, the most common "Reasons for Admission" are:

  • Road Traffic Accidents
  • Territorial Fight Wounds

Note that due to the badgers capacity for injury to rescuers and handlers; badgers are most commonly examined under a general anaesthetic and described in the Veterinary Advice page.

Road Traffic Accidents

The treatment of badgers for road traffic accidents should be dealt with in similar way to how other wildlife species may be treated - for example, with reference to the BSAVA manual of Wildlife Casualty Care for up-to-date advice.

Territorial Fight Wounds

This article provides a short summary of the issues surrounding the treatment of territorial fight wounds, and some techniques commonly used to treat such wounds.

One of the most experienced centres for the treatment of territorial fight wounds in badgers is the RSPCA's West Hatch Wildlife Hospital in Somerset (contact Glen Cousquer, Veterinary Officer, RSPCA Wildlife Hospital, West Hatch, Taunton, TA3 5RT).

Badgers are known to inflict territorial fight wounds on one another for various reasons, including:

  • to establish a pecking order or dominance within a single clan of badgers
    • to dominant badger has been ejected from a clan (a family-type group of badgers living in a single sett) because its leadership has now been usurped by another badger.
    • a young badger is being ejected before it has the strength to challenge an existing dominant badger
    • a badger may be injured trying to force its way into an adjacent clan.
    • female badgers may also fight within the clan to defend their cubs from rivals; or to defend an area of the sett which they have monopolised for their cubs.
  • to protect the territory of a clan
    • badgers which do not share the common recognised musk of a clan, will tend to be attacked if they trespass on the territory of that clan (as marked out by pathways, musk, urine or dung).

Serious fighting within a clan is unusual; and wounds will generally be limited in scope. Accordingly, providing treatment means a higher chance that the badger will be able to be returned to its home clan.

Generally, boars will get involved in more fights than sows; and the injuries sustained by boars will often be more serious than with sows.

Territorial fights tend to be much more common between February to May - presumably because the badgers are more active over a larger area to feed the clan and to defend any new cubs. Wounds may also be sustained as a result of springtime mating behaviour; and perhaps as year-old badgers are ejected from the clan to find pastures new. Whilst wounds can occur at any time of year, the peak is generally March/April.

Badgers will often stand face-to-face to assess each other relative strengths; and then they may either make a run for it or choose to fight. The attacking badger will try and grab the victim by the rump - usually on or just above the tail. As badgers have a very powerful bite and strong canine teeth, severe puncture wounds and tears can be caused - even through thick fur and deep into the skin. Such wounds can be very difficult to heal - especially if infection has penetrated deep into the subcutaneous tissues or if the animal is likely to be repeatedly attacked. Large, open wounds can also become infected with maggots/blow flies.

That said, badgers can prove to be highly resilient animals, and some survive and thrive even after having sustained the most horrific looking wounds. In the longer term, the fact that a rump wound has healed with large amounts of hard, inelastic scar-tissue may reduce the damage inflicted by attacks in the future.

Badgers may also injure one another on the neck, throat and shoulder area too.

Note that badgers will attack "mouth-to-mouth" only on the rarest of occasions. If any veterinary surgeon sees a badger with serious mouth injuries, he/she should consider seriously whether badger persecution has taken place; and possibly involve the local Police Wildlife Liaison Officer or the local Badger Group and record injuries and treatment in case they would provide useful evidence in court.

Treatment or Euthanasia?

Whilst Badgerland hopes that every badger can be treated successfully and returned to live a natural wild life; this is not always a humane solution. If in doubt as to whether an injury is humanely treatable or not, we would strongly urge veterinary experts to consult with recognised experts in badgers; such as the RSPCA at West Hatch, Secret World, or your local Badger Group.

In those badgers with extensive or severely infected wounds your decision to treat, or to euthanise, must take into account a number of important factors. These include:

  • age of the badger
  • body condition
  • health status and other injuries
  • size and condition of the wounds
  • realistic prospects for return to the wild

It is possible to make a rough estimate of the age of the badger, by assessing the extent to which the teeth suffer from attrition. Severe attrition of the incisor, premolar and molar teeth is commonly seen in geriatric badgers. If those badgers also show signs of emaciation (body weight less than 6 kilos) as well as very serious wounds; we would reluctantly consider whether the badgers should be euthanised on welfare grounds.

Body Condition and Health

Vets need to make an assessment of the general body condition and health of the individual badger.

A healthy badger with a large wound may be a prime candidate for successful treatment. On the other hand, for example, a thin geriatric individual with many parasites (lice, fleas, worms, etc) may be both immuno-suppressed and malnourished; and the benefits of treating a smaller wound may be more marginal.

Vets also need to be aware that other injuries/infections may also be present and a thorough clinical examination should be performed on all patients. In the south-west of England, vets should remember that a proportion of badgers may be infected with Mycobacterium bovis. Bacilli may be excreted in the saliva, urine, faeces and fluids from wounds.

Size and Condition of the Wounds

The wounds seen on badgers may range from incidental puncture wounds to large suppurative wounds. Bite wound often penetrate deep into the flesh and may set themselves up a sources of serious infection. In time, these infections may burst out and eventually suffer from infection with blow flies.

In some cases, new, clean small wounds may need no treatment other than routine cleaning; which may allow very early release of the badger back into the wild.

However, severely infected wounds, and wounds where there is a very large skin deficit, are unlikely to heal quickly; and may result in the badger being treated for long periods - sometimes as long as one month. Vets and rescuers need to realise that the chances of a successful return of the badger to its home clan diminish with time; and some extensive non-lethal wounds may prove so time-consuming to treat and heal; that euthanasia may be a humane early consideration. For example, the West Hatch Wildlife Hospital aims to return badgers back to the wild within 4-6 weeks.

Prospects for return to the Wild

Badger rescuers and vets need to consider the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960, which makes it an offence to abandon an animal in such as way that it is likely to suffer unnecessary suffering.

Being highly territorial a badger will need to be released back into its home territory - otherwise it will normally be attacked by a neighbouring clan. Recording information such as the EXACT location at which the badger was found are very important; and we would strongly urge rescuers to write down precise Map/Grid References or use a GPS device to determine the location.

However, each individual badger should also have a realistic prospect of successful return to its clan. If, for example, the badger being treated is an under-weight geriatric boar; it will prove very difficult for it to re-establish itself back into its old clan; as other stronger badgers will often force it straight out of the clan once again. Being able to assess the probably social status of an individual badger is very useful. Rescuers need to assess whether the individual animal can compete on equal terms with its peers in the wild.

Treatment of Wounds

Following initial assessment, the wound should be treated require careful management to ensure the badger has the shortest possible stay in captivity.

As a general rule, the following procedure has been adopted by the vets at the RSPCA at West Hatch:

  • Under general anaesthetic, the wound is subject to aggressive debridement.
  • Any necrotic tissue is removed and the wound liberally flushed with Dermisol (this is a propylene glycol, malic acid, benzoic acid and salicylic acid solution) to promote sloughing of any remaining devitalised tissue.
  • Nylon stay sutures are then placed in healthy tissue around the wound, these being left in-situ for the duration of the treatment.
  • A Granuflex (hydrocolloid dressing) is then applied over the wound.
  • Vetasept (an alcohol-based skin disinfectant) is then used to clean the surrounding skin; as this provides a clean, fast-drying, surface to which the dressing can adhere.
  • If necessary, swabs are be placed over the dressing to provide padding.
  • A piece of nylon is then laced, in a zig-zag fashion, through the stay sutures to secure the dressing in place.
  • Whilst the dressings can be stapled in place, this technique is more costly, especially if multiple dressing changes are required.
  • Xenex (a coconut oil based fly repellent) may be applied to the surrounding skin to ward off any flies.

Dressings need to be assessed regularly; and changed every 3 to 4 days at first (again under a general anaesthetic). However, once the infection has been removed from the wound and the wound is weeping much less fluid, the dressings may need to be changed less often. The wound will normally be re-cleaned with Dermisol each time the dressing is changed; until such time as all necrotic tissue has been removed. The wound may also be cleaned with 0.9% sterile saline to remove any wound exudate.

In terms of infection control, the badger will typically receive Synulox (oral clavulanate-amoxycillin) at a dose rate of 250 mg per day (equivalent to 25 mg/kg for a typical 10 kg badger). In cases in persistent infection, the wound may be swabbed and cultured; and consideration given for TB testing (where TB may be present in badgers).

Wound Progress

Rump wounds pass through three distinct phases.

  1. The wound moves from an infected to a healthy state.
  2. A bed of granulation tissue is established in the healthy wound.
  3. The wound starts to epithelialise and contract. Wound contraction is responsible for the greatest part of wound closure (as a thin layer of new epithelial tissue would provide little protection).

Photographs of this treatment are provided on the following web page:

Older Treatment methods

In years past, badgers were often bedded down using blankets; and their wounds treated using a daily application of hydrogels (such as Intrasite). This method was disadvantageous for two important reasons. Firstly, badgers, like many wildlife species, suffer from stress when handled in captivity. Daily handling, even by veterinary professionals caused stress in captive badgers, which adversely affected their recovery. In addition, badgers would not normally live their live using blankets; and would normally nest using natural materials, such as dry straw and leaves.

Modern Methods

The use of more modern hydrocolloid dressings means that the wound can be stabilised more quickly and this helps prevent further contamination of the wound. Accordingly, the conditions around the wound are improved, which promotes faster healing. These modern dressing methods are more reslient, meaning that badgers can now be housed on more natural materials such as hay and sawdust. Hopefully the badger will then feel comfortable enough to exhibit normal nesting behaviour

In addition, the fact that dressings may need to be changed less frequently, means less handling by humans in needed and that consequent levels of stress in the badger are less than they were.

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