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
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
- 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
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
Rump wounds pass through three distinct phases.
- The wound moves from an infected to a healthy state.
- A bed of granulation tissue is established in the healthy wound.
- 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.
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.