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Badger

European Badger Facts

Size 24-35 inches (60-90 cm) (body length)
Speed 15-18 mph (25-30 km/h)
Weight 15-30 pounds (7-14 kg)
Lifespan 6-15 years
Food Earthworms, insects, plants, small vertebrates
Predators Wolf, lynx, brown bear, eagle, owl
Distribution Europe, Asia
Habitat Forest, Hedge
Order Carnivores
Family Mustelids
Scientific name Meles meles
Characteristics Predator with black and white head; wedge-shaped body

Main Characteristics

European Badgers are nocturnal predators. They’re part of the mustelid family, which also includes weasels, ferrets and otters. Their most eye-catching characteristic is their black and white face.

Badger Badger - Photo: Edward Hasting-Evans/Shutterstock

Species

There are five species: the European, Asiatic, Japanese, Transcaucasian and hog badger. This factsheet primarily covers the European badger. In Europe, it’s the second largest member of the mustelid family after the wolverine.


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Distribution and Habitat

Badgers live throughout Europe, from Northern Europe to Southern Europe. Their preferred habitat is hilly forests.

Life Style

Badgers aren't solitary creatures. They live in small groups consisting of 6-8 adults. Their territory extends over an area of 30-150 hectares. This corresponds to around 42-210 football fields. These animals are active at night and seek shelter in their sett during the day.

Badger Characteristics- Badger Characteristics - Photo: Shutterstock

Anatomy and Appearance

Size and Weight

The European badger has a body length of 24-35 inches (60-90 cm) and a shoulder height of 10-12 inches (25-30 cm). Their tail is 4-7 inches (11-18 cm) long. Their weight is 15-30 pounds (7-14 kg).

Body

European badgers have a wedge-shaped head, a long snout, a broad body and short, stocky legs.


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Fur

European badgers have a very characteristic look: the fur on their head has broad, black and white stripes, while the rest of the body is gray apart from its belly and feet, which are black.

Claws

They have broad feet with curved claws. The claws are twice as long on the front feet as on the hind feet.

Diet

Badgers are omnivores. They prefer earthworms, but also eat snails, insects and small rodents. In summer and autumn they also feed on roots, berries, seeds and mushrooms.

Badger Family Badger Family - Photo: Aleksander Bolbot/stock.adobe.com

Behavior

Hibernation

When it gets cold, badgers prefer to stay in their setts. However, they aren't true hibernators. They just sleep a lot and are less active. Nevertheless, they build up fat reserves starting from the summer season. They eat so much that in autumn they weigh 33-37 pounds (15-17 kg) instead of the usual 15-30 pounds (7-14 kg).

Sounds

Badgers have at least 16 different sounds. They squeak, coo, growl, purr, kecker, chirp, squeal, cackle, chitter, grunt, bark, hiss, snarl, snort, wail, and yelp.

Are Badgers Aggressive?

Badgers usually keep their distance and rather flee to the nearest sett than meet us humans. Most of the time, they're so fast that we can't even get close to them even if we run after them. However, if you corner and threaten them, they can become aggressive and attack. That's why it's better to leave the animals alone.

Badger Sett Badger Sett - Photo: Coatesy/Shutterstock

Badger Sett

A badger's den is a underground home called a sett.

Location

Badgers typically seek out a south-facing slope to construct their sett, as it allows the area to be warmed by the sun. While searching for food, they move within the range of their sett. So when you see a badger, you know: its sett can't be far away.

Size

The entire structure can have a length and width of 100 feet (30 meters). The entrance has a diameter of approximately 12 inches (30 cm).

Tunnels and Chambers

European Badgers are very good at digging. They use their powerful feet to create extensive tunnels underground. The chambers are at a depth of up to 16 feet (5 meters). They are padded with new leaves, moss, straw and grass on a regular basis. Badgers are very concerned about cleanliness in their burrow: they do not bring any food with them and always defecate outside.

The Largest Sett

A particularly large sett made it into the Guinness Book of World Records: it had 50 rooms, 178 entrances and exits, and tunnels totaling 2,880 feet (879 meters) in length.

The Oldest Sett

Setts are frequently home to families for many generations, spanning decades. In Malchin (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany), an European badger sett was discovered in 1968 that was estimated to be in use for 10,000 years!

Inhabitants

Badgers don't always live alone in their sett. They often share it with foxes.

Badger Swimming Badger Swimming - Photo: Vaclav Sebek/Shutterstock

Senses and Abilities

Sense of Sight, Smell and Hearing

European badgers have a good sense of hearing, but it is nowhere near as good as that of foxes. They can't see particularly well, especially not when it comes to colors. However, their sense of smell is excellent. In fact, it is their most important sense.

Swimming

Badgers typically steer clear of swimming, but they are actually quite adept at it.

Climbing

Badgers have long claws that are designed for climbing. However, they have very short legs and a long, wide and heavy body. That's why it's difficult for them to climb trees. They hardly ever climb.

Badger in the Garden

What to do if you have a badger in your garden? Badgers can wreak havoc on a garden while searching for food and digging. They also leave scent marks that smell very unpleasant to us humans. However, badgers must not be injured or killed. With a few tricks and a bit of luck, they can be driven away:

  • 1. (Electric) fence around the garden
  • 2. No access to food
  • 3. Jingling wind chimes or ultrasonic devices
  • 4. Outdoor lighting or sprinkler system with motion detector
  • 5. Distribute spices such as chili, garlic or pepper at the entrance to the sett

Badger Running Badger Running - Photo: Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock

Life Expectancy

European badgers live 6-15 years in the wild.

Enemies and Threats

Natural Predators

European Badgers are very good at protecting themselves. When they feel threatened, they become very wild and aggressive, which sends most attackers running. Nevertheless, Wolves, lynx, brown bears, eagles and owls can pose a danger to them.

People

The biggest threat to badgers is humans. They are hunted and killed because they make roads and railway embankments unsafe by digging underground tunnels. Unfortunately, they are also kept in small cages in poor conditions so that their hair can be used for brushes or their fat in cosmetics.

Importance for the Ecosystem

Badgers play a very important role in the ecosystem. They feed on seeds and distribute them in their droppings, helping grow new plants. They build tunnels and chambers underground, which are also an important refuge for other animals, such as other mammals, amphibians and invertebrates.

Badger Photo: Maciej Jaroszewski/Shutterstock

Reproduction

Badgers mate between February and May. After mating, the fertilized egg doesn't develop immediately. They stay in a kind of “dormancy” state. It can last a few months. The actual gestation period begins between December and January. It lasts 45 days. Most young are born in early March. At birth, they're blind and have very little hair on their bodies.. After 9-10 weeks they are already big and strong enough to leave the burrow. At one year old they are almost fully grown.

Fun Facts

Not All Badgers Are Badgers

There are more animals in the mustelid family that carry the name “badger” but that aren’t “real” badgers: the American badger, honey badger, ferret badger and stink badger (actually a skunk).

Fairytales

In some old fairytales and fables, badgers are called Master Brock.

Harry Potter

In Harry Potter, the badger is the mascot of the house of Hufflepuff at Hogwarts.

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