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
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.