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Delving into the World of the Badger

For me, nothing beats the joy of spotting a cheeky badger while driving home from a bat survey or witnessing the magic of a striking black and white face emerge from a secret underground world.

Described aptly by the Woodland Trust as having, “Big families, big appetites and big personalities,” these mischievous mustelids certainly sit on the board of British woodland hierarchy.


According to The Badger Trust, Badgers have been traced back to 3/4 to 1/2 a billion years ago, meaning they once rubbed shoulders with the likes of wolves and brown bears. A reminder that like many of our wildlife species, they have been badgering across the landscapes long before we came along!


European badger captured on Steph's camera trap. Instagram @stephs.echo

While these chunky mammals are common and widespread across the UK, their elusive nature means we aren’t privy to an audience with them, as often as we would expect.


The muscular, stocky build, and eye-catching black and white stripes of the badger, mean they are easily distinguished and unmistakable from any other mammal found in the UK.


Splattering’s of woodland, hedgerow and copses, mixed with open landscape, provide ideal badger habitat. It is here that badgers will create their complex underground networks, known as setts. The HQ of each clan is known as a main sett, where most time will be spent and young will be reared. Outlier setts, smaller in size, provide safe refuge during forage.


The badger feasts off a diet of insects, small mammals, some plants and berries and the eggs of ground-nesting birds, emerging at dusk and late evening in search of such refreshments. The largest land predator in the UK, adult badgers have no predators (other than those in favour of the somewhat loosely evidenced badger cull).


As the depths of winter set in and the weather turns crisp, badgers allow a sluggishness to take hold and become less active. Feeding becomes less often and for shortened periods of time. Of course, these pesky omnivores will have stocked up with a few extra pounds of chunk in the Autumn in preparation for this winter wind-down.


Badgers will mate in spring, early summer, and autumn, with a specialised method of fertilisation allowing the species to maximise the survival chances of offspring. After mating, the fertilised eggs of the sow (female badger) will remain in the uterus unattached until months later. Pregnancy then takes a snappy 8 weeks, until cubs are ready to be born from December to April. Usually, cubs won’t be seen emerging above ground for 6-8 weeks post-birth.


With spending so much time underground, it might not come as a surprise that badger eyesight is poor. However, this is made up for by their exceptionally sensitive sense of smell and hearing.

So what signs do our woodland friends leave behind for us to ponder?


Take a stroll through nearby woodland, and you might just find those tracks and paths you assumed to be from fellow walkers or dogs, are co-used by badgers pottering along their foraging routes of an evening. Keep an eye out for claw marks on trees, or fallen deadwood that might have been torn apart by the stout claw of the badger as they search for an invertebrate snack.


Badger footprint captured in the field by Steph. Instagram @stephs.echo

Other badger giveaways might be the flattened vegetation, hair on fences where a badger has squeezed through to another land, and excavations with material spewed from setts in a digging frenzy. Surprisingly, badgers are very clean creatures! Well-used setts will be neat n' tidy, often with bedding (hay/leaves) seen around sett entrances. This hygienic approach to housekeeping even extends to their toilet behaviour where badgers will create small depressions in the ground, known as latrines. These badger lavatories will usually be found where they have been feeding, although during bitterly cold spells they may be found closer to setts (and who can blame them!). While badgers are Protected in the UK under the Protection of Badgers Act, 1992, and the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, they still face threats from the like of road, roads, illegal prosecution (snares) and culls.


Keep an eye out for Conservation Chat UK’s next online badger event here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/conservation-chat-uk-ltd-26881658565, where you can find out more about these lovable creatures and how you can help them.

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