Eurasian Badger - Meles Meles

Eurasian Badger
Image courtesy of Badger-Watch



The Eurasian badger is about 3 feet (90 cm) long, with a 4 inch (10 cm) tail, and weighs about 30 pounds (13.6 kg). The male badger is usually a slight bit larger than the female.  The distinctive trademark of the badger is the  white head with black stripes along each side of their face. Their ears are rounded and they have small white-tipped ears.  From a distance they appear to be gray in color, but actually they have coarse black and white hairs over a brownish yellow "underfur".  There is a small group of reddish badgers endemic to Britain.  The face of the Eurasian badger is longer and narrower than it's American cousin.  The Eurasian badger's body usually has a black chest. The legs are short and powerful.  They have very long  claws for burrowing.  They use the claws for burrowing both their food and  their homes, which are called setts.  They have been known to fill in another burrowing preys exit hole, before attempting to reach them through another entrance.


The Eurasian badger usually has its young in spring, usually January to March.  The average size of a litter is two to six furless and blind young.  At birth they measure no more than 5 inches (12.7 cm), of which 1 inch (2.5 cm) is tail. They don't get vision until about 9 weeks of age, but there isn't much to see in a dark badger sett.  In large litters it is rare for more than two of the young to survive.  They live in social groups or 4 to 12 badgers, but it is rare for more than one female in the group to breed during a season.  


Eurasian badgers are social creatures, unlike their American counterparts.  Their setts are underground homes that normally have several entrances.  Badger holes tend to be the shape of a capital 'D', with the flat side downwards, and are at least 20 cms (8 inches) wide.  Some setts are believed to be over 100 years old.  Aside from their main sett, they usually have several others in their territory that are used temporarily throughout the year.  They prefer sloping woodlands, where the drainage is good and the ground is not too hard to dig.

The sett consists of large chambers for sleeping and breeding and small ones used as latrines, interlinked by a maze of tunnels. One study found a well-established sett in England with twelve entrances and it had tunnels totaling 310 meters (1017 feet). It was estimated that the badgers had excavated 25 tonnes (27.5 U.S. tons) of soil throughout the years to create this complex. Tunnels can be four metres deep, though most are less than one meter (39 inches) underground and often follow surface contours. This helps with air circulation, while ventilation holes sometimes connect a tunnel to the surface.2  They also line their setts with moss and grasses, which are renewed often.

Eurasian badger group territories may be as small as 37 acres or, in moorland, as large as 3,700 acres. In large ranges the boundaries are not defended, and the badgers are non-territorial and roaming. On the edges of a smaller, defended territory the often conspicuous pathways are associated with a relatively large number of badger latrines, which consists of up to 50 small pits, each up to 4 inches deep. An average-sized latrine might cover an area of 20-55 sq ft (1.9 to 5.1 sq. m). Latrines at territorial boundaries (usually near a conspicuous landmark) are larger than those near setts or elsewhere. Latrine use reaches a peak between February and May, and to a lesser extent in October and November.  Arriving at a latrine, a Eurasian badger may squat, vigorously scratch the ground with its fore- and hindlegs, dig fresh pits with its forelegs, defecate and/or urinate. All these activities are probably accompanied by scent marking from the anal, subcaudal, digital and possibly other glands. Badgers of both sexes will also, particularly at the borders of their territory, squat in a fast action to deposit secretions from the sub-caudal gland the odor of which identifies individuals. Badgers may also mark by rubbing their anal region at a height of 12-16 inches (30.5 to 40.6 cm) up a tree or fencepost, while performing a handstand. 1



In Britain it is a crime to kill badgers.  Please visit the "Helping Badgers" section of this site to learn more about this.

Badgers are nocturnal creatures, meaning they usually hunt and move at night.  Occasionally in hot weather, they are known to come out in daylight to cool off.  They use their musk glands to leave scents on the ground to find their way around, mark their territory, as well as to identify other groups of badgers (clans).  Males are known as boars and females as sows.

They are omnivores, meaning that they eat just about everything, including meat, roots, vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, insects, and even carrion (dead animals).  This wide variety of foods insures their survival in various climates and weather conditions.

Wild badgers average lifespan is 5 to 8 years, although they have been known to reach the age of 15 years old.  In captivity the oldest known one lived 19 years and six months.  They have poor eyesight (non-color), but their excellent sense of smell and hearing make up for it.


Some badgers are infected with bovine tuberculosis (bTB).   It is a case of which came first, the chicken or the egg.  It has not been definitively proved whether badgers get bTB from cows, or vice versa.  Less than 1% of cattle are infected with this disease, but the media's focus has prompted the British government to use "culling" to reduce badger populations.

You can visit the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food web site, to keep up with the British governments position.  You must use the sites search function to trace articles about badgers and tuberculosis.

Badger Problems    

Badgers are increasingly having to adapt to urban life, due to pressure on our countryside. They may occasionally be a minor nuisance by eating fruit or root vegetables, or by making shallow pits in lawns when searching for grubs or earthworms. Providing badgers with an alternative food-supply will minimize this damage, and they make fascinating visitors. 

Over 50 percent of wild badgers die in their first year. If they survive the first year, they may live for five or six years. The most common cause of death is road accidents. Other causes include baiting, disease, starvation, fighting and old age. In captivity badgers may live for ten or twelve years, but are not recommended as pets. Injured or orphaned badgers should be looked after at an animal hospital and if possible released back to the wild; if such an animal is found advice should be sought from a local badger group or theRSPCA as expert knowledge is required.

The above problems provide some of the issues badger group members become involved in. Others include working to get tunnels built under new roads, combined with stretches of badger-proof fencing directing badgers away from the road; relocating setts under extreme circumstances and when a licence to do so has been granted; and negotiating with and advising property developers planning to build in the vicinity of badgers. 2




1 Territory and Latrine information courtesy of Stephen Harris, PhD

2 Sett infomation and Badger Problems courtesy of Helen Wharam and University of Bath Library.