I had an exciting time yesterday evening, when I was able to go out to a hide to watch for badgers – which would be the first time I had seen a badger that wasn’t roadkill.
We started watching at about 7:30pm. It proved to be a busy spot in terms of wildlife; there were several nervous rabbits, a couple of grey squirrels having the occasional disagreement, and a colourful jay. Finally, around 8:30, came the moment we had been waiting for: the black-and-white face of an adult female badger emerged from the bushes, hanging around in the open for less than a minute before going back the way she had come.
I wondered if that brief glimpse was all we were going to get, but within the next 45 minutes, a lone badger appeared a couple more times, hanging around the entrance to the sett. Then, at about 9:15, we got a proper look: first the female and one cub emerged and began foraging, before being joined by a second cub, while a second adult started moving around a few metres away. This adult eventually seemed to startle the family, who retreated back into the sett. They spent some time poking their noses out of the holes, before coming out to feed again, this time staying out for nearly half an hour. During an interval, a fox also made a brief appearance, silhouetted among the trees in the background. Definitely a worthwhile evening!
Now here are some badger facts:
- Nobody knows for certain where the word ‘badger’ comes from; it might originate from the French word becheur, meaning ‘digger’.
- The Eurasian badger (Meles meles) is the largest terrestrial carnivore in Britain, ‘carnivore’ being the order of mammals to which they belong. In terms of diet, they are actually omnivores: their preferred food is earthworms, but they will also eat insects, smaller mammals (including hedgehogs), fruits and cereals.
- According to Guinness World Records, the largest badger sett on record contained half a mile of tunnels and had 178 entrances.
- Badgers make an effort to keep their setts clean, regularly changing their bedding, and defecating in designated outdoor latrines.
- Badgers can mate at any time of the year: the female can retain fertilised eggs for months before they implant in the wall of her uterus, allowing her to give birth in early spring.