European Badger

Meles meles

Photo credit: Andrew Parkinson, SWT

Statistics

Length: up to 1.2m

Weight: 7-17kg

Average life span: 3 years, but can live up to 14 years in the wild

Conservation status

Badgers and their setts are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 as amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011. It is illegal to in any way interfere with, injure, or kill a badger, or interfere with a badger sett in any way. Details can be found here.

When to see

January to December

Habitat

Badgers live in an underground burrow system called a sett, where they tend to live in large family groups. The majority of main setts are found in areas where the dominant habitat is arable farmland, intensive grassland or broad-leaved woodland, although setts can also be found in coniferous woodland, wet moorland and urban areas. They are often found on sloping land with some cover.

Setts themselves consist of a network of tunnels and many entrances. Entrances can be recognised by their shape (which looks like a large squashed circle, or a capital D on its side), and by the spoil heap next to the entrance (a pile of soil that has been dug out and left near the sett entrance). An active entrance is easy to spot as it isn’t blocked up by fallen twigs and leaves like a disused entrance would be. Often the spoil heap will look freshly dug if the sett has had recent use.

The largest setts can accommodate 15 or more badgers, with hundreds of metres of tunnels and dozens of entrances, and can take years to complete. Badgers colonies often use several setts, with one large main sett in the centre of their territory with one or two smaller setts further out in their territory.

Setts can also be spotted by seeing the trails badgers use night after night leading to the sett, and from latrine pits situated near the local boundary of the sett.

Badgers eat worms, small mammals, fruits, roots, bulbs, and smaller mammals.

How to Identify

Badgers are powerfully built omnivores with very distinctive colouring. The body has an overall grey colour, with distinctive white head and black stripes over the head and eyes. They are elusive creatures to see in the wild unless you’re out looking in the late evening or early morning. Signs of their activity are easier to spot. Runs leading to a sett can be spotted in the undergrowth, as badgers always use the same routes to get to and from their setts. Latrine pits are small dug holes with droppings in them, usually found beside a badger run not far from the local boundary of a sett. Badger footprints show broad central pads, with five forward-facing toes with large front claws.

Badgers by your Local River

Seeing the signs of badgers is far easier than seeing the animals themselves. Setts are often found on steep wooded slopes, so it is not uncommon to find signs of a sett mentioned above in dells and alongside rivers.

Have you spotted badgers by your local river? We want to hear from you! Send your photos or stories to us at riverlife@forthriverstrust.org or at facebook.com/ForthRiversTrust