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Badgers & Sets

Habitat and Home

Usually found in well-drained soils in mixed-use countryside. Rarely in large forests, on moors or in marshes unless drained. Common in parts of Kent, but rare in the arable areas. A small colony of badgers at Dungeness are pink as a result of a limited gene pool. Urban populations in some towns such as Dover, Hastings, Bristol.
Home is a sett / holt / earth / lair. Recognisable by hole > c. 24 cms. diam. (10"), with bedding material, distinctive badger hairs, lack of fox smell or food remains nearby. But fox, badger and rabbit often live in separate parts of a large sett.

 

Badgers: a natural history

A carnivore of the family Mustelidae (weasels and their relatives). Our largest British weasel. related to otter, polecat, marten, weasel, stoat. Male = Boar, Female = Sow, Young = cubs.

Distributed throughout Europe, and Asia north of the Himalayas. In the whole of Britain and Ireland but most common in southern and south - western England. Widespread and sometimes common in Kent.

Name badger probably derived from French word 'becheur' or 'digger'. Old names include earthpig, grey / gray in Kent and Essex, pate (Yorkshire), bawson (south-west England) brock (Midlands), broc Scotland.

Behaviour:

Nocturnal, but apt to be crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) in Summer.

Regularly collects grass, leaves etc. for bedding, but unusual materials are sometimes used such as cardboard or newspaper in urban areas.

Breeds once a year, in February, but mates immediately. Female does not implant immediately, though, and the cessation of delayed implantation occurs in the autumn when the body weight is at the correct level.. Litters range from 2-6. Cubs born blind, appear above ground in late March / April. Play very important for their development.

Uses a well-defined path network for much of its travels, sometimes with each animal having its own .preferred feeding areas.

Usually a quiet animal, but is capable of being very vocal at times. Individuals may communicate using soft, almost cat - like purrs, cubs may 'whicker' in a very distinctive way, and occasionally badgers emit a frightening scream.



Badger Watching

Best done in Summer, when most comfortable. Emergence from the sett may be followed by play and other social behaviour, especially when cubs are present.

 

Problems and Persecution

Badgers' intense territoriality may lead to individual animals being driven from sett to live in company with man e.g. in farmyard, under schools etc.

Largest mortality probably from motor vehicles on C - class roads which may kill between 50 - 90 000 animals per annum. RTA. badgers can be dangerous so beware jaws and claws. Always call RSPCA., police or vet for help : most of these will know of local badger groups who operate 24 - hour emergency services.

Badger digging, illegal snaring, lamping and other problems occur locally. Digging may be to provide badgers for badger - baiting or for the training of fighting dogs.


How Do I Know If It's A Badger?
In most of Britain, an animal burrow is most likely to be occupied by badger, fox or rabbit. Each of these animals is likely to adapt another's burrow, but generally the current signs of occupation are quite clear. However, remember to always seek expert advice if in doubt, and certainly before interfering with a possible badger sett.

SIGNS OF OCCUPATION BY BADGER*

1. Presence of distinctive hairs.
2. Presence of bedding.
3. Presence of scratched tree.
4. Presence of old bones etc.
5. Presence of badger dung pits in or near sett.
6. Presence of well-worn path network to and from sett.
7. Presence of badger footprints.
8. Absence of fox smell.
9. Absence of food scraps left by fox around sett.
10. Absence of fox dung in the area.

SIGNS OF OCCUPATION BY FOX*

1. Distinctive, slightly nauseous (?) smell.
2. Food scraps present.
3. Fox dung present on or near sett entrance heap.
4. Presence of fox hairs.
5. Presence of fox footprints.
6. Absence of signs of badger.
7. Absence of signs of rabbit.

SIGNS OF OCCUPATION BY RABBIT *
1. Presence of rabbit droppings.
2. Presence of rabbit hairs (at breeding site).
3. Presence of grazed vegetation close to sett.
4. Presence of rabbit - sized burrow diggings nearby.

*Not all of these signs may be present together. Sometimes signs of all three may be present, so individual entrances may have to be examined thoroughly and with great care. Additional signs may include bits of bones, hair and bedding in spoil heaps or scattered around. When fox and rabbit are present in a sett they rarely use the same part of the sett as the badger.

Details of field signs including footprints can be found in Lawrence M. J. and Brown R. W. 1967. Mammals of Britain. Their tracks trails and signs. Blandford. Other publications are available.

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