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About Badgers

Badgers are widespread throughout most of Britain and Ireland, commonest in the south and west, scarce in East Anglia, parts of Scotland, urban Midlands.

Habitat

Mainly deciduous woodland and well drained farmland, some large gardens and easily accessible parts of coastal cliffs.

Description

Stocky grey body, short tail, distinctive black-and-white striped head with small white tipped ears. Average weight around 12 kilos in summer. Heavier in late autumn and throughout the year round where food is exceptionally plentiful.

Territory

Badgers live in large burrow systems called setts. A sett is usually dug in well drained  sloping ground in a hedgerow, wood or copse bordering pastureland. Some breeding setts have been used for over 100 years by generations of badgers and may have more than 40 entrances.
The underground tunnel systems vary hugely and may be well over 50m long. Tunnels are sometimes on different levels. Setts contain a number of chambers used for sleeping or breeding.
A badger community normally consists of several adult boars (males) and sows (females) together with one or two litters of cubs - maybe up to 15 or 16 animals in total. A community’s territory varies with the amount of readily available food. Territories in urban areas, where badgers are frequently fed by residents, are often relatively small. In the open countryside badgers often travel up to a mile or more to find food.

Preparing for Winter

During the autumn, badgers eat as much as they can, laying down a lot of fat under the skin, increasing their weight by up to 6%. This helps them to survive the winter when they are a lot less active and food is extremely difficult to find. They do not hibernate but spend the coldest weather sleeping in their setts, living mainly off their fat.

Daily Life

Members of the weasel family, badgers are nocturnal and typically emerge from their setts in fading light, or in darkness, sniffing the air for danger before going about their activities. They are very clean animals and usually deposit their droppings in shallow pits some distance from the sett. Bedding material is also changed frequently. Straw, bracken, dry leaves etc. are gathered between the forepaws and the badger shuffles backwards to the sett entrance. Near the sett there is often a 'scratching tree', engraved with sets of parallel claw marks. Sharpening claws keep them in good condition for digging.
Before going off to forage for food along well-used paths throughout their territory, badgers may spend some time around their sett. Half-grown cubs enjoy playing with each other, chasing, jumping and tumbling – the adults often join them. They like to groom each other too. Badgers in the same group recognise each other by scent; one badger ‘musks’ another by backing onto it with its tail raised to secrete a strong-smelling liquid from a gland under its tail.
Badgers being omnivores, will eat most natural foods, but are especially fond of earthworms, beetles, grubs, berries and fallen fruit.

Badger and Man

Man has persecuted the badger for hundreds of years. Badger baiting was once the rural 'sport' of the ordinary working class and although it is now illegal it is still practised, as we explain below. More recently Government publicised culling has resulted in thousands of badgers, most of them healthy, being killed as part of the attempt to control or wipe out TB in cattle. The culls are widely critiised as being unscientific and politically driven.
Badger setts and badgers are protected by law but reckless or unprofessional building development also results in setts being destroyed and badgers dying underground.
The massive increase in traffic volumes means badgers also face another enemy - high speed traffic. It is estimated that around 50,000 badgers are killed on our roads every year. To understand why so many die in this way it is important to realise that badgers follow the same paths for much of their lives, so if a road is built across their path they will continue to use it. As they attempt to cross the road they are hit. Most die, but a small number are injured, rescued and taken to rehabilitation centres to recover and eventually to be released. Where new roads cross an established badger path, the Department of Transport do sometimes arrange for a special badger tunnels to be built underneath. These work well provided the tunnels are built where the road cuts across the old badger paths with all their long ingrained scents.
A continuing threat to badgers is the illegal, extremely cruel 'sport' of badger-digging and baiting. People caught injuring badgers or digging them out of their setts are prosecuted and fined but they work under the cover of darkness and it is very difficult to catch them in the act. Terriers, often with radfio-controlled locating devices on their collars, are sent underground to locate badgers which are then dug out and either killed on the spot or carried away in sacks to face fighting dogs in specially prepared pits. It's an horrific practice and inevitably the badger dies a horrible death. It is estimated that 10,000 badgers a year suffer at the hands of badger-diggers and lampers, particularly in Wales and the north of England.

Brock - an old English word

Badgers are one of the most popular and well-known British mammals. Some places have been named after them, such as Brockenhurst in Hampshire and Brockhall in Northamptonshire - brocc is an old English word for badger.

Breeding

Badgers may mate in any month between February and October but the fertilised egg does not start developing until much later. This is called delayed implantation. The cubs are born about eight weeks after implantation, usually from mid - January to mid - March.
Litter sizes range from one to five cubs, they are born blind and have silky, greyish-white fur. They remain underground until they are about eight weeks old and weaning starts at twelve weeks of age. Some cubs stay with the family group and others leave to find new territories. Females are ready to breed at 12-15 months, males take longer, usually maturing by the age of two.Mid to late April is a good time to look for very young cubs emerging from their setts.
The average lifespan for a badger is between five and seven years, but a few live to about 13 years of age.

Protecting the badger

Warwickshire Badger Group is one of about 60 badger groups around Britain, most are affiliated to the Badger Trust. These groups survey the setts in their area and try to keep an eye on them, looking out for signs of interference. If you suspect that a sett is being disturbed by people, you should never approach them. Record any vehicle registration number and descriptions from a safe distance and contact the police, RSPCA or the local badger group.