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RSPB Spotlight on Badgers book
James Lowen explores the lives of badgers and their communal living, feeding habits and threats to their conservation. Click here to buy:
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Wildlife species - including badgers will come to rely on food handouts; so you should be careful to plan your feeding regime in advance. Make sure if you feed large amounts that you can always do this, so you will need to be sure of reliable holiday "cover" for when you are away.

We often advise giving the badgers an occasional helping hand (in the winter and spring) with food, like wet cat-food or wet dog-food, soft-boiled potatoes, very wet pasta, plain nuts (no salt and no chocolate), moist soft-boiled rice, windfall fruit and soft mushrooms - especially if the badgers are starting to look a little thin or if there has been a lot of recent disturbance to their local territory over the past year or so.

An occasional burger is normally OK too, although a lot of people do not like leaving meat in their garden, because of the risk of rats, foxes, food poisoning of the animals if the meat is left uneaten and goes off. Vegetarian burgers are OK for badgers too (they are not generally fussy eaters).

If you want to give the badgers dog-food or cat-food, start with a value brand and see how the badgers like it. If you have young badger cubs who visit, small pieces of plain food are OK - for example - plain moist soft-boiled rice, wet kitten food or puppy food.

Whilst dry cat food and dry dog biscuits provide nourishment, they may not provide enough moisture; and so are best avoided in dry spells. If you put these out, always leave lots of water too.

If you feed badgers, they will mostly be happy to eat lumps of from the surface of a paving stone, flat rock or the lawn.

In the summer, we'd say just to leave out fresh water. If you really want to give the badgers a real luxury treat, you could even buy a tub of earthworms for them. You can get these by mail order from various suppliers. Obviously, you put them in a steep-sided metal dish just before the badgers arrive, otherwise ... you can imagine what will happen!

In the autumn, the natural harvest from the countryside may be enough for them to fatten up for the winter. If not, then put out a bit of food to help them on their way to gaining a few extra pounds in weight.

Avoid high-sugar foods, as these will cause tooth decay in badgers - a problem which can not be cured; and will lead to loss of teeth for the badger, with a consequent damaging effect on feeding and a drop down the "pecking order" in the clan. Literally one handful of sugar-coated cereals once or twice a month might be OK if you want to encourage the badgers into your garden, but no more!

Badgers, like too many children, have a very sweet tooth, which can prove very harmful for them.

Placing dollops of food will make the badgers "sniff it out", so you might have longer to watch them; and laying a trail of food may make it easier to see them if they come into an open clearing or a private garden area. Do be careful not to encourage badgers to cross busy roads or railways; as the last thing you'd want to do is to get "your" badgers killed on the roads.

Risk Factors

The main risk factors to badgers are if you suddenly stop a major feeding program (due to holidays, illness, etc); and no-one takes over the duties.

Badgers (and other wildlife) may be at risk if the food you leave out has very high levels of bacteria (undercooked or simply gone off) or if it unsuitable for badgers (e.g. too high in sugar).

Also avoid, leaving out bones (especially chicken bones). These may cause problems for cubs, adult with broken or lost teeth; and other species, like cats, dogs and hedgehogs. Bones will also provide you (and your neighbours) with a litter problem.

A badger can bite through skin, tendons and muscles, and even break bones in an adults fingers, hands or wrist. However great the temptation, NEVER ATTEMPT TO FEED A BADGER DIRECTLY FROM YOUR HANDS.

Also see our page about Family Pets.

Wildlife Diseases

If you want to attempt to civilise them (by providing a bowl), then use one of more METAL dog-type bowls, which are difficult to tip over (e.g. one for water and one for food). Badgers may be very rough with bowls - for example, biting them, kicking them, clawing at them and even using them in tug-of-war fights, and CERAMIC OR GLASS BOWLS WILL GET BROKEN eventually.

To avoid the possibility of cross-contamination, have "badger-only" bowls; and wash them separately from items used for people or other pets.

Using rubber-gloves, clean the dishes using very hot water with a decent quantity of soap/detergent.

Use a badger-only dishcloth and tea-towel; and follow strict hygiene precautions. This is especially important if any of the following apply:

  • you have any babies or young children
  • you have any-one who is or may be pregnant
  • you have any-one who is elderly or infirm
  • you have any-one who may have a suppressed immune system

Note that this advice does not mean to imply that badgers are riddled with disease - it's just pragmatic, common-sense advice to be followed if you come into contact with any wildlife species.

"I suffer from acute and incurable melophilia ...
a rare and delightful ailmentfrom which I am thankful that I can never be healed ...
The only symptom is a deep affection for badgers."
Phil Drabble

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