North York Moors

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Badger

Badger in woodland undergrowthBadger in woodland undergrowth
Scientific name

Badger (Meles meles). 

Habitat

Woodland and farmland with plenty of hedgerows and trees for cover. Badgers live in large burrows underground which they dig themselves, so they are most likely to be found in areas with well-drained soil that is easy to dig. 

Appearance

Badgers are large mammals up to about one metre in length. They have a pointed head with distinctive black and white stripes and small, white-tipped ears. Their body is covered with coarse, silvery grey fur and they have very long claws on their front paws, specially adapted for digging.

Lifestyle

Badgers are nocturnal. Their main food source is earthworms, but they eat almost anything, including beetles, cereals, fruit, eggs, mice, voles and baby rabbits. Sometimes they even dig out and eat wasp nests and bee hives. 

Badgers are social animals and live in small groups. They dig out a system of underground tunnels and nests called a ‘sett’, where they live in a family group. The family group defends a territory around its sett and chases off any other badgers that try to invade their home. A large sett may have lots of entrances and may have been used for many years by different generations of badgers. 

Two or three badger cubs are usually born at the same time in a warm underground nest, lined with dry grass. The mother badger feeds the cubs with her milk until they are about 3 months old and then she teaches them to find food themselves. Some cubs stay with the family group, while others go off on their own to find new territories. 

In autumn badgers start to fatten themselves up. They don’t hibernate, but they do spend most of the winter undergound, living off their fat, coming out occasionally to find food. 

Conservation

In the past many badgers have been killed for sport, but badger baiting is now illegal and badgers and their setts are protected by law. Local wildlife groups often help to protect badgers, by caring for injured badgers (many are killed or injured by road traffic) and by working with developers to protect setts that are in the way of new road schemes or buildings. 

In some areas of Britain, badgers can catch tuberculosis, or TB. There is a lot of discussion about whether badgers can pass on this disease to cattle and in some areas badgers have been culled under licence to try to prevent cattle catching TB. 

In the North York Moors National Park the population of badgers is thought to be fairly stable. The National Park Authority works with local groups to help find out more about these animals in order that they can be protected.