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Badger Habitat, Identification, Diet & Other Facts
By Ark Wildlife
1st September 2013
The European badger belongs to the weasel family which includes the otter, stoat, polecat, ferret and pine marten. It is indigenous to most of Europe, however it is particularly abundant in Britain and Ireland, with the largest population density found within southern England. Badgers are normally easily identifiable by their distinct black and white striped head and greyish fur, however some may be albino (white), melanistic (black) or erythristic (ginger). They have a small heads, small eyes, a thick short neck and a long wedge shaped body with a short tail. The average adult length from head to tail is 750mm (30in).
It is often difficult to distinguish between the males (boars) and females (sows) – generally the males tend to be slightly larger with a potentially longer, thinner and whiter tail.
Reproduction in badgers involves a phenomenon called “delayed implantation”. Badgers mate at any time of the year but the embryo does not implant into the womb and start growing until the winter. This means that all cubs are born at the same time of year – mostly from January to March. Litter sizes can range from one to five although two or three cubs are most common. The new-born badger cubs are covered in grey silky hairs and usually the facial stripes are already visible. Weighing between 75-130g, their eyes remain closed for about 5 weeks. Feeding on their mother’s milk, they remain within the sett until they are at least eight and sometimes nine or ten weeks old. Almost all badger cubs will be weaned by the beginning of July although they may continue to be dependent on, and sometimes accompany their mother whilst foraging, for some time.
In Britain, Badgers occupy a large range of habitat types and they are often found in woods and copses, scrubs, hedgerows, quarries, moorland, open fields and even in housing estates! A badger’s food supply is undoubtedly one of the most important factors influencing habitat selection. Population density and territory size are all influenced mainly by food availability with an abundance of earthworms being particularly important. Badgers live in setts, a network of underground tunnels which they dig using their strong claws. Setts are usually comprised of a network of interconnected tunnels and chambers and are typically excavated in soil that is well drained and easy to dig.
Several categories of setts have been identified in the UK. Every badger group has one Main sett which is occupied continuously and is used for breeding purposes. Other types of setts are Annex and Subsidiary – they are normally close to the Main sett but not necessarily in use all the time, and Outlying setts which are rarely used and are often taken over by foxes and even rabbits.
Badgers in Our Gardens
Badgers are creatures of habit, living in a social group (or family) which occupies a territory. This territory may include your garden and depending on where you live could include many neighbouring gardens and other sites, or surrounding fields and woods if you live in the country. Badgers are one of the best liked British mammals. Watching them in your garden foraging for food, can give great pleasure and be educational for younger members of the family. The badgers will also naturally remove some harmful creatures which may otherwise damage your vegetables, fruits or flowers.
How you Can Help Them
Providing supplementary food, in limited amounts, can be beneficial to badgers. This food helps to increase the chance of cubs surviving in hot, dry summers and also help all badgers during long cold, frosty periods – when natural food is in short supply. Care must be taken to avoid the badgers becoming dependent on handouts – small regular quantities of badger food can dissuade the badgers from causing damage to fruit and vegetable crops whilst not encouraging the social group to become larger than the territory would naturally support. It is also not advisable to provide food if it encourages badgers to cross a busy road.
Badgers are afraid of humans as we are their only real predator. With their excellent sense of smell and hearing, once they have detected the presence of humans they generally disappear. However it is definitely not recommended to approach an injured or trapped badger as with most wild animals they may attack if they feel threatened or vulnerable. Under these circumstances it is recommended to leave the badger alone and seek assistance from your local badger conservation group or the RSPCA.
Related Internet Link:
The Badger Trust
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