The Badger’s Year
(reproduced by kind permission of the Badger Trust)
Badgers are less active and spend more and more time underground due to the colder weather and less food being available. Sows are pregnant and some may give birth. Bedding may be seen being aired outside sett entrances.
Most pregnant females give birth to between one and five cubs. Mating also increases in this month and boar badgers range more widely over their own and neighbouring group territories looking for females to mate with.
Badger activity increases as weather becomes milder and more food is available. This leads to a dramatic increase in the numbers of badgers killed on the roads in the spring months. Cubs are still completely dependant on their mothers.
Spring is in full swing and food supplies are plentiful again. Badger cubs are now exploring the sett entrance and may emerge, tempted by the multitude of new scents and sounds outside. The sow is protective over her cubs and makes sure they stay close to the sett.
May is a good time to start watching badgers. The weather is warmer and badgers are beginning to emerge in daylight. Cubs are now three to four months old and come above ground to explore around the sett and to play with other badgers.
By the end of June many cubs are weaned and should know their way around the sett. They are now confident enough to forage with other cubs, other members of the group, or by themselves. In June, badgers often sleep in day nests above ground.
Prolonged dry weather can have a serious impact on badgers. Deaths may occur through starvation and through increased road traffic accidents. Badgers can be seen foraging in the daytime. Cubs are half the weight of their parents and growing fast.
Badgers spend a lot of time digging and extending their setts. The diet at this time of year includes cereal crops.
Late summer and autumn bring additional food sources, including cereals such as wheat, oats and barley, and fruits including blackberries, windfall apples, wild cherries and acorns.
Badgers are feasting on fruits and other food to put on fat reserves for the winter. Badgers also prepare their setts by excavating tunnels and by bringing in fresh bedding material, such as grass and leaves.
From November, watching badgers can get more difficult, as the times when they emerge from their setts becomes more erratic. Although badgers do not hibernate, their activity is reduced as food becomes harder to find.
Badgers sleep longer and deeper. The lull in activity coincides with an important phase in the badger’s reproductive cycle. Sows can mate at any time of year but it is not until winter that the embryos implant in the womb and start growing. This is called delayed implantation.