AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BADGER

Badgers, Meles meles, have lived in Britain for longer than man. The earliest known remains, discovered in Cambridgeshire, are at least a quarter of a million years old. In contrast, man's influence on the landscape stretches back a mere 8,000 years. Present in every county in Britain but strongest in the southwest, badgers occur throughout North Yorkshire.

The badger is a member of the mustelid family and is related to otters and weasels. Unlike any other British mammal, and therefore instantly recognizable, the badger has a white head with two dark stripes on either side of the face. The body appears grey on top and dark underneath and is well designed for digging with short, powerful front legs and strong claws.

The social life of the badger is based around the 'clan': a varying mixture of adult and juvenile badgers which are normally, but not always, related to each other.

Their day-to-day activity is centred around a sett consisting of a maze of underground tunnels and chambers where the animals can rest during the day and in which cubs are born. Each clan will have a well defined territory, the size of the territory depending on the number of neighbouring clans and the availabilty of food within the territory.

DIET AND BEHAVIOUR

Cheifly active at night (nocturnal), badgers are sometimes seen during the day, particularly when food is hard to find. They are omnivorous, taking a wide variety of food. The main constituent of their diet is earthworms but at various times of the year this will be supplemented by insects, small mammals, fruits and cereals.

Badger cubs are born in the early part of the year, often around the middle of February, normally two or three in number but up to five. The cubs are born blind and naked and remain within the sett for the first eight weeks and will be dependent on their mother for four months or so.

Badgers are very clean living animals, spending time clearing out their setts and collecting bedding. This activity takes place throughout the year but peaks during spring and autumn. The spoil heap at the sett entrance and the presence of pieces of vegetation used as bedding are signs thet the sett is occupied.