The Badger (Meles Meles)
Despite being rarely seen during daylight hours , the badger , the largest terrestrial carnivore here in Britain is easily recognisable and still a common sight despite centuries of persecution here in the U.K. It’s survival owes much to it’s secretive nature . 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.
Badger facts : Badgers have featured in lots of British literature over the years, such as Brian Jacques’ Redwall series, “Tommy Brock” in Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Mr. Tod, “Bill Badger” in Mary Tourtel’s Rupert Bear, “Mr. Badger” in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows and “Trufflehunter” in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.
Habits and Habitat
Badgers are mostly nocturnal and rarely seen during the day. When not active, badgers usually lie up in an extensive 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.
Badger facts : Badgers have lived in the U.K. for over half a million years
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 provides the badgers with food scraps, while badgers maintain the shared burrow’s cleanliness.
Badgers do not hibernate but will spend much more time underground from November to February, normally only venturing above ground during this period on mild nights. Outside of this period the badger normally emerges from the sett around dusk , grooming for a while before heading out on a foraging trip. The sleeping and breeding chambers of the sett are lined with bedding such as bracken and dried grass.
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.
Badger fact : Badgers’ ability to smell is about 800 times sharper than our own.
Litters normally consists of 2-3 cubs ( but can be up to 5 ) 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.
Diet and Feeding
The Badger is a highly adaptable opportunistic forager , 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. Unlike Britains other large carnivore the fox , the Badger usually eats prey on the spot and does not cashe food.
Conservation Status and Mortality
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.
Badger facts : Badgers are part of the family Mustelidae this is the same family as otters, ferret, polecats, weasels and wolverines.
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.
The badger has no natural enemies in the U.K. apart from humans and human activity. One of the major causes of mortality are road traffic accidents.
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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