Meet the Model – Brian the Badger

Say hello to Brian the Badger (Meles Meles)

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Despite being rarely seen during daylight hours ,Badgers are easily recognisable and widespread on the British mainland. The low set animal has a solid frame , black and white striped face with grey body hair and a lighter underside.With an average weight of 15 kg the Badger has no natural predictors, and can live in the wild for up to 15 years , however very few live this long, They are most common in the south west, rarer to the north and east; and thinly distributed in Scotland.

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Badgers are mostly nocturnal and rarely seen during the day. When not active, badgers usually lie up in anextensive system of underground tunnels and nesting chambers, known as a sett. Each social group usuallyhas a main sett where the majority of the group live most of the time, but there may be odd holes scattered around the territory that are used occasionally. Badgers can live in social groups of two to 23 adults, butusually around six. They defend an area around their main sett as a territory. Territories may be as small as30ha, but can reach up to 150ha or more. Badgers mark their territory by leaving their faeces in collections of shallow pits, which in aggregate are called latrines.Badgers may live along side foxes in isolated sections of large burrows. The two species possibly tolerate each other as the fox provide badgers with food scraps, while badgers maintain the shared burrow’s cleanliness

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Reproduction

Mating typically takes place between February and May, with implantation delayed until late winter.Sexual maturity in boars is usually attained at the age of twelve to fifteen months but this can range from nine months to two years,Sows usually begin ovulating in their second year, though some exceptionally begin at nine months. Badgers are usually monogamous; boars typically mate with one female for life, whereas sows have been known to mate with more than one male. Litters of 2-3 cubs are born around February blind and hairless in the safety of the nest. They usually appear above ground at about 8 weeks, and weaning usually takes about 12 weeks. Subordinate females assist the mother in guarding, feeding and grooming the cubs. By late summer they are usually feeding independently but can be adversely affected by drought at this time causing starvation.

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Diet and Feeding

Badgers exploit a wide variety of food items, but earthworms form the majority of the diet as well as insects, grubs, and the eggs and young of ground-nesting birds. They also eat small mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds, as well as roots and fruit. In Britain, they are the main predator of hedgehogs, which have demonstrably lower populations in areas where badgers are numerous, so much so that hedgehog rescue societies do not release hedgehogs into known badger territories.

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Conservation Status

The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 consolidates past badger legislation and, in addition to protecting the badger itself from being killed, persecuted or trapped, makes it an offence todamage, destroy or obstruct badger setts. Where badgers pose a problem, licences can be issued to permit certain activities. Badger baiting (using dogs to fight badgers) has been outlawed since 1835. The Badgers Act 1973 afforded limited protection against badger digging, and was finally outlawed in 1981. About 80 local groups have been formed by enthusiasts wishing to protect and study badgers. Their activities include protecting badgers from diggers and baiters by reinforcing setts, helping with care and rehabilitation of injured badgers, having tunnels and badger proof fencing added to new road schemes and giving developers advice about setts. In 1988 there were estimated to be around 42,000 social groups of badgers, and just under 200,000 adult badgers. By 1997 this had risen to just over 50,000 social groups and 310,000 adult badgers. The population is now probably stable. Mortality is high, with around one-fifth of adults dying each year. Road traffic accidents are a major cause of death. Some badgers are infected with bovine tuberculosis, particularly in the southwest of England. These animals are the subject of a control campaign by Defra. There is a continuing debate about the role of badgers and cattle infecting each other with TB.

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Badger Facts:

Origin:                Native
Size:                    12-20kg , Body up to 900mm
Description:       Black and white striped face , grey fur
Habitat:              Mainland Britain and Ireland
Young:                 Up to 5 cubs
Nest:                    Badger Sett
Diet:                     Earthworms  , fruit and small mammals
Lifespan:             Up to 15 years in the wild
Population:         Estimated 320,000

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