Facts and Figures
Latin Name – Meles Meles, of the order Mustelidae
Nocturnal, live in groups
Weight – up to 12kgs (30lb)
Natural Habitat – Deciduous woodland
Natural Diet – Omnivorous, eats worms, insects, carrion, fruit and funghi
Male badgers are known as boars, the females as sows and the young as cubs.
Badgers are Britain’s largest mammal, and are found throughout Britain though they are not common in Scotland. They are easy to identify by their distinctive black and white stripes on their head and grey body. Badgers weigh from 8-9kg in the spring up to an average of 11-12kg in the autumn when they have, hopefully, put on weight for the winter. With a body designed for digging; they have very strong forelimbs and long claws. Their jaws are very powerful and, unusually, can lock, giving an almost unbreakable grip. They are nocturnal and, in common with many other nocturnal animals, they have poor eyesight but good hearing and an excellent sense of smell, thought to be up to 700 times stronger than man’s!
They are social animals and live in groups, called clans, in a network of tunnels and burrows known as a sett. The clans are of varying size and are a mix of old and young, usually related, badgers. There will be a dominant sow and a dominant boar and, usually, only they will mate and breed. Badgers are very territorial and recognize other members of their clan by scent; should a strange badger wander into their territory they can be very aggressive.
Road traffic accidents are the most common cause of death; it is estimated that as many as 50,000 badgers die on the roads each year. The biggest, natural cause of death is lack of food, particularly in hot, dry summers or in exceptionally long, cold winters. It is thought that as many as 50% of badgers die in their first year; if they can survive this, they may live to five or six years or even longer.
As well as having unusual, locking jaws, badgers also have unusual pregnancies. The female mates in the spring and the eggs are fertilized and implanted in the womb, but then growth stops until December, when the embryo starts growing again. Birth occurs approximately eight weeks later. There are usually two or three cubs, but there may be only one or, occasionally, as many as four or five. As with many mammals, the young are born with their eyes closed; their eyes open at about five weeks old and the cubs are usually weaned by fifteen weeks. They will usually start venturing out of the sett in April and are off foraging with their mother by May.
Badgers are omnivorous, like humans (although their diet is a bit different), and can eat up to 200 earthworms in a night; they will also eat insects, carrion, small mammals, fruit and fungi, acorns, grains and eggs. They can cause problems for householders by digging holes in lawns in the hunt for earthworms and insects, particularly during hot, dry spells. Badgers do not hibernate but do spend longer underground during cold weather, so they need to build up their body weight in the late summer and autumn to survive the winter.
Handling an injured, or sick, badger safely requires specialist equipment as it will be in pain and frightened and will probably bite. If you find an injured badger, do not to touch it; call us immediately
How you can help badgers
Drive carefully, particularly at night when badgers are out and about.
If you find a badger sett, do not disturb it and don’t tell people where it is – badgers are still illegally used for badger baiting. It is illegal to obstruct, damage or destroy a sett.
If you do find a sett that has been destroyed or disturbed, notify your local police wildlife liaison officer.