Wildwood Kent
Wildwood Kent
Wildwood Kent

European Badger

Meles meles

 

Description

Part of the mustelid group (which includes otters and weasels), with an iconic black and white striped face and grey bodies, they are the UK’s biggest land predator. Ranging between 8-12kg, they are powerfully built with short legs and powerful thick necks. They have long powerful claws, crucial for digging. They have quite small heads with long muscular snouts.

Distribution

Widespread throughout Europe as well as parts of western Asia.

Habitat

Found in both deciduous and mixed woodland, with patches of pastureland, clearings and scrub. Have also adapted to life living in suburban and urban areas.

Diet

Generalist omnivore eating a huge variety of food items, although earthworms seem to make up the majority of their diet. Fruits, berries, eggs, invertebrates, rodents and small mammals (including hedgehogs).

Behaviour

Nocturnal, territorial and highly social. During the day, each social group resides within its sett, which comprises of underground chambers linked by tunnels. These groups can range between 2-23 individuals, but the average is around 6. Territory boundaries are marked by faecal collections called latrines. During late summer fat reserves are accumulated in preparation for their a “winter sleep”, a strategy adopted in order to cope with the harsh conditions of winter. This can range from quite a deep sleep, to sporadic periods of rest in less harsh areas such as the UK.

UK Status

In the UK have a wide distribution except on most islands. They are most common in the south west of England, growing rarer towards the north and east. Badgers and their setts are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Threats

Historically, badger baiting was once a popular blood sport in the UK whereby badgers were attacked by dogs in a pit until it was outlawed in 1835 and 1911. In the UK, the changes in agricultural practices has put pressures on the more rural populations due to loss of habitat and food (most notably invertebrates). Badger populations in some counties are likely to have decreased due to a government-led culling programme which began in 2013. This is part of the current policy to attempt to halt the spread of bovine TB within cattle – although research suggests there is little scientific evidence to support their role as a primary vector of the disease to cattle. Collisions with road vehicles will also have an impact on populations in certain areas.

Read The Mammal Society position statement about badgers and bovine TB here.

Wildwood

You can see the badgers at Wildwood late in the afternoon when they have been fed, or occasionally at mid day on sunny days in the winter. At other times you can see them curled up together asleep in their den inside.

Did you know?

Badgers are the main predators of hedgehogs in the UK; they are the only animals strong enough to tackle a curled up hedgehog with all it’s spines.