The Badger is widespread across the UK, though rarely seen and this being largely due to its shy nature and nocturnal habits. It is of course a subject of folklore, a character in many children’s books, and generally loved for its endearing looks and behaviour. That said, it can also be an enormous pest to gardeners, doing considerable damage to lawns and flowerbeds. However, Badgers are protected by law, so any attempts to keep them out of gardens must be those which don’t harm the animal.
Sadly of course, the only time many people will see Badgers is dead on the side of the road.
Mating usually occurs in July but, in some circumstances, implantation can be delayed by 2 to 10 months. After then the badger is properly pregnant for about 7 weeks.
There is normally a single litter of between 2 and 3 cubs born between January to March. The cubs are born blind, with dirty looking white fur on their upper body only. Many cubs die within their first year, although those that do survive go on to be adults who often live for up to five years or more.
Badgers live in groups of up to 15 in an ‘earthen sett’ – the signs of these are obvious as huge mounds of earth can be seen at the entrances (and if the entrance is active, the soil will be loose and look obviously freshly dug). The sett is lined with moss and grass which the badger renews frequently. There will also be a special nesting chamber off the regular sett.
Growing up to 75cm from head to tail, the Badger has distinct black and white facial markings, leading to grey across much of the body. Chest and forepaws are also black. Weight is 10 to 12kg, with the female being slightly smaller than the male.
Where they live and their impact
They live in woods and copses, and especially if these are adjacent to pastureland. In villages and small towns which border this sort of habitat, Badgers will readily enter gardens in search of food. Here they can do considerable damage by digging in lawns and beds for one of their favourite foods – earthworms.
What they eat
Although the badger is classed as a carnivore (it has large canine teeth), it is essentially omnivorous. So as well as earthworms, beetles, voles, mice, frogs, snails and wasp grubs, it also eats acorns, beech mast, bulbs, fruits and roots. In addition, they will also readily take to food put out for them in gardens and a real favourite is peanuts (the natural type used for feeding birds – definitely not salted peanuts which would harm them).
The issue of Badgers and cattle TB
This has been a contentious issue for many years, with tens of thousands of Badgers being killed (under license) in the belief that they carry and spread cattle TB. The latest scientific view is (from the Governments Independent Scientific Group – ISG) that whilst Badgers do indeed carry and spread the disease, culling them is not the answer and a much more effective means is ‘by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone’.
This latest view is contained in a report and is the culmination of 10 years worth of scientific study costing 50 million pounds (so in this respect we can consider the findings robust).