A Guide To British Fauna - The European Badger

Scientific Name : Meles meles

Common Names : European Badger, Eurasian Badger, Badger

Physical appearance : A small dog sized mammal which is powerfully built and can weigh up to 34 kgs (although that is exceptional). It most commonly has black, white and brown fur colouring with a relatively small head compared with its stocky body. The Eurasian Badger has small, black eyes and a short tail. Thay have thick, short necks and wedge shaped bodies. They have plantigrade feet with 5 toes on each food. Their claws are very powerful and are used for digging, defence and food acquisition. Boars (males) are usually heavier set with thicker necks and heads than females (sows). They also have narrower tails than females. On average, males weigh between 7 and 17 kgs, depending on the time of year. They are usually heaviest in the months preceeding winter, as they bulk up for a possible hibernation (although they will not necessarily hibernate, provided that the weather is sufficienty mild). Badgers have extemely heavy set, elongated skulls which in turn gives them an absolutely ferrocious bite.

Where to find/natural habitat : Common throughout Europe and Asia, these creatures can be found in mixed woodlands, forests, wasteland, clearings, pastureland, some urban parks and suburban areas (although not as prolific as the Red Fox). It can also live at some altitude, up to 2000 metres above sea level. Badgers live in setts, similar to rabbit warrens. These setts can range from simple to extremely intricate with several to tens of "rooms" and exits. Interestingly, these setts can be used by generations of a single family or "clan".

Habits and charecteristics : Badgers are naturally clean in their habits and so families have predefined "latrines" or toilet areas in close proximity to and surrounding their setts. These are also marked with their rectal glands which produce a strong musk. Badgers are crepuscullar meaning that they only come out at dawn and dusk, making them largely nocturnal. They are fairly social animals, living in groups of up to five or six individuals. Most badgers live in setts, dug out from earthworks. They will generally endevour to keep their setts clean, choosing to often clean out and exchange fresh bedding. They are mildly territorial although will generally tollerate other individuals and even species, however, they have little patience for cas and dogs.

Diet : Badgers are omnivores and do eat a varried diet consisting of oata, barley, wheat, maize, apples, pears, plumbs, blackberries, acorns, beechnuts, pignuts. With regards to the carniverous aspect of their diets, they will eat : earthworms (a favourite), insects, carrion, weasels, rabbits, mice, shrews, moles, hedgehogs, medium to large birds, wasps (they will tear open a wasp nest without being stung due to their ultra thick skin and fur. They have been known to eat small lamb and poultry.

Breeding and birth : Most badgers reach sexual maturity within 15 months but can be in as little as 12 months. Gestation takes on average 7 weeks although interestingly, a delay of 2 to 9 months is possible before the fertilised egg is implanted into the wall of the uterus. Litters of 1 to 5 can be produced.

Predation : Young badgers can be predated by large eagle species such as the Golden Eagle and by other predators such as wild dogs and foxes. This can even be the case with adult badgers.

Pictured above - a tame badger with keeper. Please do not try this with a wild badger!

Interesting facts : Badgers can be tamed and kept as pets. Traditionally, badger meat has been eaten in the UK, Germany and other European countries and badger sausages were particularly popular!

Protection status : Badgers and their setts are protected and it is illegal to willfully kill, injure or harm a badger or to disturb its sett. Protection of badgers act 1992.

"Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures/memories."

Images courtesy of Ranveig, Chris P, Dellex, Ciaran G,

The Bushgear Team

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