Badger

Scientific Name: 

Meles meles

Synonyms: 

Brock, Mochyn daear (or just Mochyn) meaning Earth pig.

Description

Badgers have a powerful, barrel shaped body with blunt tail and short, sturdy legs with strong claws. With coarse hair, the underparts and legs are black with a grey back; the head has white cheeks and a white centrepiece with stripes of black over each eye and ear.

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Weight: 

Approx. 8 - 12kgs when mature (males are larger than females)

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Lifespan: 

A Badger may survive for up to 14 years.

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Distribution: 

Although less common in the north of Scotland, Badgers are found throughout the British Isles. Found in rural and urban environments.

Habitat: 

Badgers dig their underground setts in woodland, quarries, cliffs or hedgerows. The chambers of the setts may have many different entrances, each tunnel being up to 18 metres in length. The main sett is generally surrounded by several subsidiary setts, which sows may move into when ready to give birth.

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Behaviour: 

Reproduction: 

Badgers become sexually mature at about one year old and mating may occur during any month, although the majority are between February and May (mating is also quite common between July and September). Oestrous (the female's receptive period) in Meles is typically between one and two days, during which a sow may mate with several boars (and prior to which, boards descend their testicles after over-winter retraction as a heat-conserving method). During courtship, the male will pursue the female and bite her nape (back of the neck) during intercourse. Reports exist describing the sow running around in circles -- first clockwise, then anti-clockwise, similar to that observed in courting hedgehogs -- prior to copulation, although it is unknown whether this is common behaviour. After fertilization, sows undergo a phenomenon known as embryonic diapause (also referred to as 'Delayed Implantation'). Diapause is a dramatic reduction in, or a cessation of, mitosis (cell division) in the zygote (fertilized egg) at the blastocyst stage. The end result is that cubs are born during the spring, almost regardless of when mating actually occurs. Once diapause ends gestation is usually between six and eight weeks, with cubs born anywhere from mid-January to mid-March with the bulk occurring in early February. As many as five young badgers will be born underground, where they will be blind for the first five weeks. Young badgers emerge from the nursery chamber at about eight weeks old (late April or early May) and the cubs have their first teeth at four weeks old. The permanent dentition is complete by 16 weeks (ca. 4 months). Weaning begins when the cubs are about 12 weeks old and during this process the sow will regurgitate food for the cubs; cubs are weaned and feeding themselves by five to six months old (around end of June, early July).

Population: 

Predators: 

None! As a relatively large and powerful mammal, badgers have no predators apart from each other and man. It is worth noting that any instances of badgers killing each other or other animals killing badgers (e.g. foxes, wolves or bears) are more likely to be intra-guild competitive release (i.e. one predator turfing another off its territory) than predation _per se_. Mortality-wise, probably the three biggest killers are: cars (all ages), coccidiosis (cubs) & dry summers/autumns (all ages, but especially cubs).

Status: 

Found throughout the British Isles, the Badger is more prominently established in the north east and south west of England, and Wales. Badgers are protected by law (Protection of Badgers Act, 1992; Schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981; Powers of Criminal Courts Act, 1973), making it a criminal offense to trap, kill or injure a badger or interfere with its sett without a licence. Despite the continued legal protection of this species in the UK, the population is not endangered and appears to be flourishing (esp. in parts of southwest Britain).

Did You Know?: 

A Badger sett may be many centuries old. The Badger is an extremely clean animal preferring to dig latrines away from the sett, and changes its bedding regularly. A group of Badgers living together is known as a clan. Badgers are nocturnal creatures emerging from their setts usually as dusk. The threat of coccidiosis is of such significance to young badgers that putting out water for them during the summer is *far* more important than any food you supply!

Additional Notes: 

Footprint Image

Footprint Description: 

5 digital pads, all forward facing. Often claw marks are visible. Print resembles a loosely closed fist (5 "knuckles" and a "palm").

Track Images

Track Description: 

Badger paths are usually well worn, and have a "greasy" appearance due to the low slung body rubbing against the ground. Badger feeding areas tend to show heavy soil disturbance and very often you can see the individual snout marks left in the earth. These are known as "snuffle holes". Badgers have regular scratching posts, used for sharpening claws. In the case of the image above, a fallen tree, but they also use standing trees as well for this behaviour.

Droppings Images: 

Droppings Description: 

Badgers tend to deposit their droppings in what are known as "dung pits" - shallow depressions scraped out by the animal, which are used constantly until full, at which time another will be created nearby. Dung pits can be found close to a Badger sett, but are also used to mark the territory boundaries. Although Dung pits are used in the main by Badgers, random droppings can also be occasionally found.

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Species: 

M. meles

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