The Eurasian Badger (Meles meles)
Badgers are nocturnal mammals, and are rarely seen during the day. They have a black and white striped face, with a grey body, and black fur on their legs. Their head and body length is about 750mm (30"), with their tails being 150mm (6"). Their average weight is 8-9kg (17-20 lbs.) in the spring, and 11-12kg (24-26 lbs.) in the autumn. Meles meles, the Latin name for the badger puts it into the weasel family. They have long strong claws on their front feet, which are designed for digging. A badger has the ability to move a boulder weighing 25 kg (55 lbs.). Badgers will indulge in playful romping, which helps to strengthen their social bonds.
Badgers are found in Europe and through to Japan and southern China. In Britain, badgers are most abundant in south west England, Wales and small areas of north east England, and they generally prefer forest and grassland. It is estimated that there are about 42,000 social groups of badgers in Britain, made up of 250,000 adults which produce around 172,000 cubs a year, of which approximately 50-70% die in the first year of life. Approximately two-thirds of adult badgers die each year. Road traffic accidents are a major cause of death. The maximum life expectancy of a badger is about 14 years, though few survive that long (90% die before the age of 7).
Badgers lie up in a sett when they are not active. A sett is a system of underground tunnels and nesting chambers. These setts are used by successive generations of badgers, and average 125-375 acres (50-150 hectares). The boundaries of the territories are marked out with odour and defended. Badgers often carry their nesting material out of the sett during the day to be aired. They live in social groups of 4 to 12 adults. Only one female badger in a social group normally breeds.
Badger Reproduction and Diet
Badgers reproduce by a method known as delayed implantation. They can breed at any time of the year. This is to ensure that young are produced at a time when temperature and food conditions are at their best. After mating, a female badger (sow) keeps the fertilised eggs in her uterus in a state of suspended development until they are implanted in the uterine wall, usually after 10 months. After an additional gestation period of 7-8 weeks, they give birth to a litter of 1-6 cubs, which are usually born in February.
Badger cubs emerge from the sett when they are about 9 or 10 weeks old. Cubs become independent of their mother by around the following autumn, and are fully mature by 2 years.
Badgers are carnivores by classification yet are omnivores by habit, and their diet consists mainly of earthworms, but includes frogs, rodents, birds, eggs, lizards, insects, bulbs, seeds and berries. Blackberrys and apples are major food sources in the autumn.
Badgers are protected by quite a few laws in Britain. A license is needed to deliberately kill or trap badgers. Badger baiting (using dogs to fight a badger) has been outlawed since 1835, and digging for them was made illegal by the Badgers Act 1973. The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 combines badger legislation and makes it an offence to damage, destroy or obstruct badger setts, as well as protecting the badger itself.