Badger

European badgers are unusual because they live in groups, described as clans. They inhabit a network of underground tunnels and larger chambers known as setts.

European badgers emerge above ground to seek food as darkness falls. They are playful creatures, and at this time the young and adults will indulge in boisterous romping. Such play helps the badgers to strengthen their social bonds, crucial to group-living animals. Large members of the mustelid family, badgers have a much more diverse diet than most of the small carnivores. Adept at making a meal out of most situations, badgers will eat anything they find, including berries, fungi and carrion. Worms are a particular favourite, and on warm, damp nights badgers can regularly be observed patrolling through pastureland.

The badger's black and white face makes it instantly recognizable.

In spite of their placid appearance, badgers are very aggressive if cornered, capable of inflicting serious injuries with their teeth and claws. One of the badger's greatest assets is its mouth. The way a badger's skull is structured means that it is physically impossible for the animal to dislocate its jaw, allowing badgers to have one of the most powerful bites in the natural world. This trait makes the badger a fearsome foe for any animal that happens to cross its path.

Unlike most other mustelids, badgers are very social animals. They live in large family groups centred on communal dens, or setts. Setts may be occupied by many generations of badgers, each of which remodels and enlarges their subterranean home, with some setts potentially dating back over a century. Their young are born in late winter, and will first venture out of their sett at two months old.

Distribution: Britain and Ireland eastwards right across much of Europe, south from Scandinavia into Asia, extending as far as southern parts of China and Japan.

Habitat: Favours a mixture of woodland and pastureland, also moving into urban habitats.

Weight: 8 - 12 kg (18 - 26 lb).

Length: 90 cm (35 in).

Maturity: 12 - 15 months.

Gestation Period: 42 - 56 days; embryonic development can be delayed for up to 10 months after fertilization.

Breeding: Average 2 - 3, ranges from 1 - 6; weaning at 12 - 20 weeks.

Food: Omnivorous, feeding primarily on earthworms, insects, small creatures plus nuts, fruit and vegetable matter.

Lifespan: 3 - 15 years; 19 in captivity.

Status: Common.

Colouration

Predominantly grey on the upperparts and black on the underparts.

Striping

Black and white stripes are present on the head, extending along the sides of the face to the neck.

Legs

Like other burrowing animals, badgers have short but stocky legs.

TUNNELLING AWAY

A badger sett is an amazing piece of engineering. Bare soil is often present around the entrances, located in woodland.

Badgers rely on their claws for digging for shelter and sometimes food.

American Badger

The American badger is a solitary creature. It is generally active at night, although it will come out of its burrow during the day. It is an excellent digger and burrows rapidly after disappearing rodents - its main food. Birds, eggs and reptiles make up the rest of its diet. It will sometimes bury a large food item for storage.

The badgers mate in late summer, but the 6-week gestation period does not begin until February, so the litter is born only the following spring. The 1 to 5 young, usually 2, are born on a grassy bed in the burrow and are covered with silky fur. Their eyes open at 6 weeks and they suckle for several months.

Range: S.W. Canada to C. Mexico

Habitat: Open grassland, arid land.

Food: Rodents, birds, reptiles, scorpions and insects.

Size: Body: 16.5 - 22 in (42 - 56 cm); Tail: 4 - 6 in (10 - 15 cm).

Maturity: Females 4 months; males 1.3 years.

Breeding: 1- 5 young born in spring.

Life span: 14 years.

Stink Badger

The 2 species of stink badger have particularly powerful anal gland secretions. The stink badger's scent is said to be as evil-smelling as those of skunks. When threatened or alarmed, the stink badger raises its tail and ejects a stream of the fluid. However, like musk, although foul in concentration, the secretion can be sweet-smelling in dilution and was formerly used in the making of perfume. This nocturnal creature lives in a burrow and feeds on worms, insects and small animals. The second species, the Palawan badger, M. marchei, inhabits the Philippine and Calamian islands.

Range: Sumatra, Java, Borneo.

Habitat: Dense forest.

Size: Body: 15 - 20 in (37.5 - 51 cm); Tail: 2 - 3 in (5 - 7.5 cm).

Palawan Stink Badger

Found only on the Philippines, this badger lives up to its name, squirting a noxious fluid from its anal glands when it feels threatened. Active by both day and night, it is a slow-moving creature with a stocky body and a long, flexible snout for sniffing out small grubs and worms. Due to its restricted range and secretive habits, little is known about the ecology of this species.

Size: 32 - 46 cm (12 - 18 in); 3 kg (6.6 lb).

Burmese Ferret Badger

This small, flexible badger has a long bushy tail and white or yellow markings on its cheeks and between its eyes. The ferret badger spends most of its days asleep in burrows, only stirring as night sets in, when it then forages. It eats insects, birds and small mammals and will often climb trees looking for insects, snails and fruit.

Size: 33 - 43 cm (13 - 17 in); 1 - 3 kg (2.2 - 6.6 lb).

Hog Badger

The hog-badger, or "bear-pig", roams across much of South-east Asia, living mainly in forested areas. Rooting in the ground, using its canines and incisor teeth as pick and shovel, it finds small invertebrates and roots, as well as taking fruits and any small mammals that might wander past. Some local peoples have reported it to be a keen fisherman, taking crabs from rivers and streams.

The hog-badger is much like the Eurasian badger in colour and appearance, but with much longer foreclaws and tail. These animals scavenge when food is scarce.

The cubs of this nocturnal animal are playful creatures, but in maturity there is little social interaction. The hog-badger sleeps in deep burrows or caverns under large rocks, and can dig fast enough to escape from some predators - usually leopards or tigers. With strong jaws and sharp claws, it is not an easy meal to catch. In common with other badgers, it also employs a pungent defense mechanism, secreting noxious fumes from its anal glands when in danger.

Distribution: South-east Asia.

Habitat: Jungle and wooded highlands.

Food: Omnivorous: worms, fruit, roots and tubers.

Size: 55 - 70 cm (22 - 28 in); up to 14 kg (30 lb).

Maturity: 8 months.

Breeding: 2 - 4 young born in early spring.

Life span: 13 years in captivity.

Status: Lower risk.

Gallery of Badger