Badger--Meles meles

Badgers belong to the Mustelidae family of mammals and placed in the genus Meles. They are carnivorous animals of which their leading characteristics are ---

They have five cheek teeth in each side of the upper jaw and six in the lower. The first tooth is very small, the second and third pointed, the fourth trenchant or cutting tooth on the inner side, the fifth in the lower jaw more so, and the last in both jaws large and tuberculated in their crown.

The incisive and canine teeth are like those of the generality of carnivorous animals, only the middle incisor on each side of the lower jaw is inserted further inward than the one on each side of it, though it slopes outwards so as to range in a line with others at the crown. 

European badger

Photograph courtesy of kallema CC BY-SA 3.0 License

Mäyrä Ähtäri 4.jpg

Leading characteristics continued.

Badgers have the body and thick,squat and heavy, and the legs short, but the whole appearance is very compact and strong. The head is rather slender and the muzzle narrow, however, it is not cartilaginous or moveable, so it can not be used for rooting, like the snouts of pigs for example.

The eyes are small, and nicitating { A thin fold of skin beneath the eyelid that can be drawn across the eye}, the ears are small and rounded, and the external concha is very simple in its form. The eye sight is poor, its hearing is about the same level as human hearing but the sense of smell is acute.

There are five toes on each foot, the claws on the forefeet large, powerful and sharp, well adapted for digging. The claws are not retractable and the hind ones wear with age. Under the tail there is a scent gland which is capable of giving out a very offensive odour if the animal is alarmed, threatened or irritable.

The common badger when full grown is about two and a half feet long {70cm} and the tail which is covered by hair is a further six inches {15cm} The weight varies much with the individual and the season some not being more than 15lbs while others are twice that weight. 

the hair in which it is covered is long and close, and fine,adhering very closely to the skin. The hair was commonly used in artists brushes known in times gone by as "sweetening tools" with which those artists pass lightly over their work before it dries for the purpose of softening and blending the tints .  they were also employed in the production of shaving brushes.

Upon the living animal, the skin is equally remarkable for its toughness, its flexibility, and the ease which, from the loose nature of the celluar tissue beneath it, it will rise when pinched, without including any of the flesh in the fold. from these properties of the skin, as well as from the thickness and softness of the hair, and the difficulty of either cutting or removing it from the skin. thus the badger is very difficult to bite, at least in the manner as to wound or injure it.

Even the skin is not easily pierced by teeth, and it is very difficult to tear, so that when dogs attack a badger, they, if they are not trained and participating in the act in numbers as in that cruel pastime of badger baiting, merely take hold of the skin and shake without causing any serious injury, or even much pain, while the badger bites viciously in retaliation. Because of this fact and the scent gland very few animals will attack the badgers and its only real enemy is man.

the upper part of the badger consists of two kinds of hair, wooly ones and silky ones, which have a glossy or glistening lustre. these last are from their structure, and also from the nature of their surface, they are worse conductors of heat than the others, and they are wanting on the under parts where the colour is dark

Usually the upper part of the badger is dull grey, appearing as though the animal is partly soiled. The colour of the grey portion is made up of particoloured hairs The woolly ones are whit, with yellowish points. and the silky white have a black portion in the middle. This mixed colour becomes lighter on the flanks, and passes into a dullish, reddish white on the posterior part of the abdomen. The remainder of the under part, including the major portion of the abdomen and legs is very brown or black.

On each side of the head there is a black streak beginning on the lip, and proceeding across the eye to the ear, which is black, with a white border at the upper part.  The remainder of the head is a dull white, which is met by black on the under part, about the middle of the lower jaw. In addition to these markings of colour, it may be mentioned that the feet of the badger are very amply supplied with pads, so that it may pass over hard or rough surfaces equally without injury. One of them is at the end of each toe, three others arranged in a triangular manner occupy the sole of the foot, which have an additional one on the rear of the fore foot and two on the rear. As the badger hibernates its colours do not go under a seasonal change which takes place in animals that are exposed to the weather.


Foraging badgers

Photograph courtesy of Mark Robinson {Flickr} CC BY -SA  2.0 License.


Lifestyle of Melas melas

Badgers feed on fruit, roots and grass along with earthworms, insects, particularly beetles and small animals, though they seldom take anything larger than a frog or lizard. The badger is not capable of climbing so it can not harm or injure anything that perches upon or grows upon trees , and as it keeps to its burrow[sett} during daylight hours, the live part of its food consist of creatures of a nocturnal nature.

It is hard to believe, in these more enlightened times, that badgers were once accused of burrowing down to the bodies in graves to eat the bones of the occupants. This superstition and ignorance saw badger setts dug out and the mob, armed with pitch forks, spades and anything else they could use as weapons, was used against these defenceless creatures. badgers have no quarrelsome nature { with some exceptions during the mating season} or any pugnacious traits against each other or other animals.  

Sett entrance

Photograph courtesy of CiaranG via Chechof { creative Commons Attribution}

The entrance to the sett which is usually well concealed and high enough to prevent it from being flooded by water, is usually under a bush, in bracken or other tangled herbage and shrubs. Where the habitat is disturbed as for example by development, the badger is quick to disappear from the locality, being deprived of food and shelter.

Setts have many entrances and exits, and, where they have not been disturbed, they are handed down from generation to generation. { badgers are probably one of the oldest inhabitants of our green and pleasant lands} thus the setts can become quite extensive. In these larger setts there may be multiple females in residence and the sett will contain a plethora of isolated passages and several nursery chambers. The boar {male} only requires a sett for shelter during the day and the winter. The female on the other hand requires the sett for additional accommodation for the nursery.

Badgers are in season for 4-6 days but this may occur throughout the year though there seems to be a peak in spring. Pairings occur more usually between January and May. thus cubs are born between January and mid March. The cubs are born with a pinkish colour with greyish silver fur and closed eyes. In 3-5 days their claws become pigmented, and individual dark hairs begin to appear. The eyes open at 4-5 weeks. Milk teeth appear at 4-6 weeks.

The cubs grow quickly and emerge from the sett at around the age of eight weeks and are weaned  at around 12 weeks old, although they continue to suckle the sow for much longer than this. Cubs fully develop their adult coat at 41-68 days. The bedding in general and in the nursery chamber particularly is frequently changed and consists of grass, bracken, straw, leaves and similar substances. 


The American badger

Conservation issues.

Badgers have always been in conflict with farmers of cattle. The reason being that badgers are, in the farmers opinion, to blame for the spread of bovine TB. This is a particularly horrid disease. In the UK all cattle have to be tested on a regular basis for the disease, and, if any cattle prove positive they have to be destroyed, so feelings run high as one can imagine.

For more information on this subject and indeed the dispute between farmers and conservationists click on Conservation Issues 2012 on the right hand side of this page. facts and current issues about the cull can also be found here.

Badgers  are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and also by their own Act-The Badgers Act 1996.

Badgers are listed in Appendix 111 of the Bern Convention and as such the government is committed to regulate their exploitation to keep populations " out of danger" 

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July 2012--badger cull given the go ahead

 Mr Justice Ouseley has ruled the Badger Trust's legal challenge to halt the badger cull had failed on all grounds. Although the Judge refused an oral request, the option is still open for a written application and the Badger trust and their legal advisors, are considering an appeal.

The Badger Trust will now study the judgement closely and consider the next steps in its campaign to protect the badger from this pointless cull. the Badger Trust will do everything in its power and within the law to minimise the harm caused by this thoroughly unnecessary killing. but the likely method of free shooting is cut price expediency risking a cruel and brutal outcome for a protected species and increased outbreaks for farmers both within and around the culling zone.

To read more click on the links banner on the right hand side of this page. Scroll down to Wildlife Extra click, this is a direct link to the site home page. 

October 2012--The British Government announced that the cull has been postponed until the summer of 2013.. Pressure seems to have payed off. 

September 2013 the badger cull is a shambles. See associated pages below. 

To keep up to date  with the cull and other badger information click on Links banner on the right hand side of this page. Scroll down to relevant box,click,this is a direct link to the website home page.

Illustration from Wild Animals of the World by Richard Lydekker 1849-1915

Courtesy of the BHL

An Historical perception

I find it is interesting to look  back in time to see how the perception of animals were seen at that time. In this case,  I refer to a book printed in the early 1900's, before the many changes to our countryside and its denizens occurred.  The book is not in copyright,and the text is courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

The author states, " This very intelligent animal, is commoner than is generally supposed,being entirely nocturnal, it is, seldom seen, and with the exception of game-keepers and 'sportsmen',few people are aware of its presence in any given locality. If the parent animal is seen, the onlooker can consider himself lucky, but if, in addition , the young are also observed playing around their underground abode, one of the most enthralling episodes in the wildlife pageants of rural England will have been witnessed. Acute of both scent and hearing, it is impossible to catch a badger unawares, as it bolts to the 'earth;, immediately as the presence is detected. Seen under natural conditions, the observer, pent up with excitement, will have some difficulty controlling his emotions; but, with steadiness of purpose, and a knowlegde of woodcraft will accomplish much."

" In days gone by, badger baiting at fairs and other country festivals was considered a great sport, but those days have passed, and we are now concerned in an endeavour to promulgate the law of live and left live,though, perchance, converts may be few ! But this badger baiting of old goes to show how common this species was, and its alternative name of Brock is till perpetuated in certain districts known to us, where, even today, the animal is by no means uncommon.  If an earth {set} is opened, It is found to consists of various compartments all scrupulously clean and well apportioned. Maybe a fox will have taken lodgings there, too, and if this happy state of affairs is existent, then one can tell at a glance which is the better house-keeper of the two animals, the badger's tidiness is in complete contrast to that of its  crafty lodger. The grassy nest is secreted within the burrow and here three or four young are produced in early spring. They are blind at first, and do not leave the security of their underground home until they are well able to fend for themselves. A further point of interest , is that the badger can travell equally well backwards and forwards."

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Mammal Society.



American mink.

Pine marten 

All other mammals that feature on this site can be viewed by clicking on the relevant content banner on the right hand side of this page { they are all grouped together} 

Conservation Issues 2012. 

Links--Mammal Society--click on the links banner and scroll down to Mammal Society, this is a direct link to the mammal society home page.

Links --Wildlife Extra 

Links--My green logo {designers}. 

Links--Stop the cull 

Links. Badger cull a shambles September 2013. Click on the Conservation Issues 2103 banner on the right hand side of this page. Scroll down to September.