IN CELEBRATION OF BADGERS
Today is National Badger Day, and since we think they can get something of a bad re, we thought we’d share a few facts about the history and lifestyle of these beautiful creatures.
Badgers are short, stout, powerful animals that live in underground ‘setts’ that can extend well over 50 metres long! Members of the mustelid family (which includes pine martens, otters, polecats, ferrets and the wolverine), the European badgers range extends from Britain, across Europe and to the middle east.
The diet of a badger is extremely varied, with badgers being described by expert Professor Tim Roper as “opportunistic omnivores”. Earthworms are the core of the badger’s diet, often by as much as 60 per cent. In a single night, an adult badger may eat well over 200 worms!
Badgers mate at almost any time of the year, but due to an unusual reproductive technique, known as delayed implantation, they have only one litter a year. Litter size ranges from one to five cubs, with two or three the more common number. Cubs are born in chambers lined with bedding material that the females (sows) gather and drag into the breeding chamber. Straw, hay, grass, fern are all commonly used, which keep the cubs warm. Most cubs are born in early to mid-February and will emerge above ground at around 12 weeks. At 16 weeks, cubs will be displaying most adult social behaviours, including grooming and scent marking.
The earliest traces of badgers in Britain have been dated back to three quarters to half a million years ago, according to a study by Yates (1999), meaning badgers once co-existed with wolves, brown bears, arctic foxes and wolverines, all of which once roamed Britain!
Badgers live underground in a network of tunnels and chambers called a ‘sett’. Badger setts vary from occasionally used “outliers”, which often have single entranced tunnels, to vast, ancient underground complexes with multiple entrances. These larger setts can extend from 20 to 100 metres or more, with some of the largest having more than 50 entrances! Such elaborate setts can take many years to create and are passed down through generations – some setts can be more than 100 years old. These are the family homes, used, maintained and enlarged at will by generations of the same social group.