Badger FAQ’s

Click on the questions to expand:

How big is a badger?

Fully grown boars are usually bigger than fully grown sows. They can be up to three feet (almost a metre) in length (including a short tail), and weigh up to 30 lbs (14 kg), so about the size of a large Labrador dog (but not a very fat one!), only on much shorter legs.

What do badgers normally eat?

Badgers are omnivorous, which means they will eat almost anything edible. The bulk of their diet is made up of earthworms (generally about 80%), but they will also eat small rodents, frogs and slugs, fruit, nuts, wheat, sweet corn and grubs. They will also eat carrion, and raid bees nests for the honey and wasps nests for the grubs.

Should I feed badgers?

As shown in the last answer, badgers eat a wide variety of foods so the chances are that they will eat most of what you put out for them (or for the birds, or hedgehogs, or the dog!), but a word of caution, when foraging in the wild badgers will eat a wide range of foods giving them a naturally balanced and healthy diet. If you only ever feed one type of food, and in such quantities that they come to rely on it as a regular food source, this will upset their naturally balanced diet. It will also mean that if you go away, or suddenly stop feeding them for some other reason, the supply on which they may have come to depend will be denied them. If you want to feed small amounts on an irregular basis to attract them to your garden, or at a particular location in the wild to make sure they stay in one place long enough to watch them successfully, the best thing to use is a couple of handfuls of raw, unsalted peanuts (bird nuts). Badgers love these, and will go out of their way to investigate once they get used to being fed these at a particular spot. Just remember – don’t overdo it! Please also remember to leave out plenty of fresh water at ground level where badgers can get at it. This applies not only in hot weather, but also in winter when other sources may be frozen.

Do badgers hibernate?

No, not in the sense that hedgehogs hibernate. Badgers will put on a lot of weight in the autumn to see them through the lean winter months, when earth worms and other foods are harder to come by. During the winter months they sleep deeper and longer, and in very wet or cold weather they may stay underground for days at a time.

How many cubs are there in a litter, and when are they born?

Generally between one and five, the usual number being three. Badgers will mate all year round, but due to the females’ ability to delay implantation, the cubs are born between January and March, peaking in mid February. They stay underground for about six weeks after birth, but are still totally dependant on their mothers for another three or four weeks.

Are badgers territorial?

Yes, but sociable within their own family group (clan). Adolescent males will leave their birth setts at a year old to establish new territories and look for mates from other social groups. Fights (almost always between two males or two females) can cause severe injuries, typically to the neck and back, just above the tail. There is normally a clear ‘pecking order’ within a social group.

What is the distance between setts?

A social group or clan will have it’s own territory, which will contain a single main sett with a number of entrances, used and unused, and a number of subsidiary and outlier setts. The size of any one group’s territory will depend on the nature of the countryside and the available foraging area.

What is the natural lifespan of a badger?

Probably five to six years, although there have been recorded cases of individuals living for ten or more years. It is estimated that 20% of the adult population is killed on the roads each year.

Are albinos accepted by other badgers?

Yes, as a rule. Although albino (white) and erythristic (ginger-red) badgers are rare, experienced badger watchers have noted that they seem to be accepted by the rest of the social group in which they live. For the genes to perpetuate at least some of them must breed successfully.

How do badgers relate to other species?

Surprisingly well. Other species which have been recorded as sharing badger setts include foxes and rabbits, as well as much smaller ‘prey’ species such as voles and mice.

Do females without cubs help with 'baby sitting'?

During their first few weeks of life the cubs are suckled exclusively by the mother, who remains fiercely protective but will leave them for periods while she goes above ground to forage. Once the cubs are old enough to venture out, although not yet weaned, they will begin to interact with other members of the social group. Two important factors in this socialisation are play and mutual grooming, during which the group members will come to recognise each other principally by scent.

Unweaned orphaned cubs will die of starvation if not rescued and reared by hand. If old enough they may venture above ground to seek their mothers, and are thus more easily rescued.

Is it true that badgers bury their dead?

Almost certainly not. Badgers which die underground may well be walled up and that part of the sett abandoned, but that is not quite the same thing. Future generations may then unearth badger bones in extending their sett, and it is the occasional finding of these bones in the spoil heaps which helps the rumours persist.

How many badgers are there in Britain today?

It is generally accepted that there are about 30,000 occupied main setts, which given an average social group of five adults means some 150,000 individuals.

Are badgers widespread in the UK?

Some areas of Britain are devoid of badgers. They are most heavily concentrated in the south east and south west of England, west and central Wales, and north east England.

Do badgers make any sounds?

As a general rule, badgers are silent animals. However, scientists working for the Wildlife Conversation Research Unit of the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford have identified thirteen distinct calls made by badgers in particular circumstances, namely bark, chitter, churr, click, growl, hiss, kecker, purr, snarl, snort, squeak, wail and yelp. You can read all about them at the Badgerland site.

Do badgers store food?

No, not in the sense that squirrels store food. However, they do lay down reserves of fat in the autumn to see them through the lean winter months ahead.

Can badgers swim?

In common with most mammals badgers are able to swim, but they usually try to avoid doing so. They will go out of their way to make use of bridges across streams and rivers, and will utilise fallen trees if available. Instances have been reported of badgers making use of a suitable tree fallen across a stream over many years, to the point where the bark was worn away and the top surface polished smooth by the passage of feet over many years. But there are also reports of badgers swimming across a canal to get to particularly good foraging ground on the far side. So badgers can swim, but whether they do or not depends on their need and the circumstances.

Do badgers pair for life?

No, but they may remain as partners for many years. Each family group has a dominant boar, which will mate with the dominant sow only for as long as they both remain dominant, as well as any other breeding females in the group. On reaching maturity, male offspring usually leave the group to find a group or partner elsewhere. Once a dominant boar is past his prime, and no longer able to defend his territory and group, he may be ousted by one of his own offspring or an adolescent male from a different group and gene pool.

What can I do about badgers digging up my lawn?

This can be a common problem in dry weather when lawns are being watered, bringing worms nearer to the surface. Also in some areas, and at certain times of year, when the badgers are after the grubs of the cockchafer and crane fly (daddy-long-legs), which lie just below ground level and eat the roots of the grass.

There are chemical sprays which will deter all animals (domestic and wild) that do seem to work. (Note that Renardine is now banned, so must NOT be used) You could also consider more ‘organic’ methods… If you have a dog (rather than a bitch) encourage it to lift its leg where the badgers are digging, or at the point where they are entering the garden. This invariably deters them – male members of the household performing the same function will have the same effect, but not everybody is willing to try this! (This is not a service we provide! – it’s very much a do-it-yourself remedy, but it really does work). It should only be for a short while until the badgers get the message.