Badger (Meles meles)

Overview

Badgers are nocturnal burrowing mammals that live underground in a sett. In the UK badgers live in family groups of 5-14 called a clan, unusually the UK is the only place in the world where badgers live together. They are stocky mammals with short powerful legs for digging and have a very sensitive sense of smell and poor eyesight. Badgers are easily identified by distinctive black and white markings on the head and coat colour is usually silvery grey. There are approximately 300,00 badgers in the UK, with the southwest being the most densely populated area. Badgers have lived in the UK for over ¼ million years, outliving their only natural predators, bears and wolves.

Diet

The badger’s principle food is earthworms but their varied omnivorous diet is one of the badger’s key survival strengths. Although badgers are members of the order carnivore, they are actually omnivores, foraging for food rather than hunting. Badgers eat fruit, nuts, bulbs, berries, reptiles, insects, birds’ eggs and when other food is scarce they will even climb trees to eat slugs.

VIDEO of tree climbing (embedded from youtube)

Habitat

The varied diet requires a mosaic of habitats and setts are often located in woodland bordering grassy meadows. The sett usually has three nesting chambers linked by a network of tunnels and several entrance holes, providing fresh ventilation in most weather.

Badgers are notoriously clean animals. They maintain their bedding by rolling it to dry it out, preventing parasite infestation, and regularly replace it with dry grass, straw and bracken. Furthermore badgers defecate in latrines. These are small holes located strategically at the edge of their territory to mark the boundaries between different clans. There are ongoing studies on campus to investigate their behaviour and territories. (For further information contact f.mathews@ex.ac.uk).

Threats

The fragmentation of habitats by an increase in intensive farming has lead to the badgers decline in some agricultural areas. Badgers are susceptible to bovine tuberculosis (TB) and act as reservoirs for infection, transmitting Mycobacterium bovis to cattle. Over the years this has led to various efforts to control the disease by culling badgers, none of which has been successful. For more information on badgers and TB click here.

Legislation

All badger legislation has been combined under one act. The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 makes it illegal for any person to kill, injure or take a badger or damage a sett.

Ref corridors:

More information can be found on the Wikipedia article.

Further Videos (embedded from youtube)