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Identifying Badgers by their Tails



Mammal Review, Volume 33, Issue 1, Page 92, March 2003


David R Dixon


Individual badgers Meles meles can be reliably identified in the field on the basis of variation in the appearance of the tail. Tests of the technique using video surveillance demonstrated that in 95% of instances individuals were identified correctly on the basis of tail patterns. It is possible that tail patterns and posture may be a significant means of communication in this species.

Sexing of the badgers in this study was based on a combination of behavioural (viz. observed mating and territorial behaviour, cub tending, musking and urine marking) and morphological indicators (i.e. skull shape). Previously, Clark described a method for identifying the members of a badger clan he was studying at his home in Hertfordshire based on facial differences. In this way he was able to distinguish at least eight members of a social group. While one member of the Radford clan was identifiable based on a permanent defect to its head - the one-eared female - there was not a sufficient amount of facial variation, at least discernible on camera, to make this a useful method. In contrast, using tail pattern 95% of animals seen on camera were identified.

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