Order – Carnivora. Family – Mustelidae. Sub-Family – Melinae. Genus – Meles. Species – Meles Meles.
The Badger is one of Britains’ oldest and largest wild animals and is thought to have been present for possibly 500,000 years. The badger is related to the otter, stoat and weasel. It is easily recognised by a white head with a black stripe over each eye and ear.
They have excellent hearing and keen sense of smell, although their sight is quite poor. Badgers have very strong bodies, particularly shoulders, short legs and a coat of coarse hairs.
Male badgers are called boars, females sows, and the young, cubs. Boars are about 1 metre long and weigh 12 to 14 kg, with sows being somewhat smaller.
Badgers live in underground tunnels and chambers called setts which are mainly found in woodland slopes, although they can be found in a variety of places, including beach cliffs and coal heaps. Active setts will usually show signs of activity, including footprints, hair, scratch marks on trees, dung pits (also called latrines) and well used paths.
Badgers are territorial animals and each social group has its own distinctive scent. They will use dung pits to mark out their territory from other groups. Mating can take place all year round. To ensure cubs are not born too early, e.g. in winter when there is less food available, sows undergo delayed implantation whereby the fertilised egg (blastocyst) does not implant in the womb until the end of winter or early spring. There is then a normal gestation of approx 6 weeks.
Cubs are born between mid January and mid March, with the peak around the first two weeks of Feb and emerge from the sett when they are about 9 or 10 weeks old. Cubs become independent of their mother by the following autumn, and are fully mature by 2 years. Adult badgers are good parents, both protecting and disciplining the cubs whilst also teaching them to forage for food.
They are clean animals in that they do not eat in the sett and regularly remove old bedding materials, made up of grass and leaves etc, and replace it with new.
Favourite foods of badgers are earthworms, but they also eat cereals, insects, fruit and small birds and mammals.