Badgers on Historic Sites

Badgers on Historic Sites

LAN16
2003

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Introduction

The Badger (Meles meles) is a familiar species, which is nevertheless rarely seen in the wild. Evidence of its activities are more obvious, and can cause significant problems in the historic environment.

Badgers are widespread and common in suitable habitats in Britain, but scarce in some upland and wetland areas. They also have a history of persecution, and it is this, rather than their rarity on a national scale, that has led to their legal protection.

Badger ecology

Badgers live in social groups, sometimes called clans. Females tend to stay with their natal group, whilst males are more likely to disperse after reaching maturity. They live in underground tunnel systems known as setts, which are used by successive generations of badgers, sometimes for centuries. Clans are territorial and particularly in Spring the animals dig latrine pits along the boundaries and on well-used paths to mark their territories.

Setts can be divided into four types, depending on their size and importance to the group:

  • Main sett: large, continuously occupied, used for breeding.
  • Annex sett: smaller, usually occupied, and connected to a main sett by well-worn pathways.
  • Subsidiary sett: seasonally occupied, some distance from the main sett.
  • Outliers: only used sporadically and may have no obvious path connecting them with another sett.

Setts can usually be distinguished from tunnels of foxes or rabbits by their size and shape. Badger tunnels are at least 25cm. in diameter, and often have an oval profile, being wider than they are high. There are large spoil heaps, often with bedding material, outside active entrances. However other animals, including foxes, may use badger setts, sometimes when badgers are resident. In urban, upland, intensively farmed, or low-lying areas individual badger setts may be of high local importance.

Typically a badger clan will have one main sett and additional smaller setts within its territory. Badgers are omnivorous, feeding on earthworms, insects, fruits and roots, also carrion and crops. Earthworms are particularly favoured. Badgers will dig small holes to extract worms and grubs from grassland and lawns.

Badgers give birth to 1-4 young, usually in February, which do not emerge from the sett until April. They take over a year to mature, and may live up to 11 years.

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