European Badger

European Badger

Eurasian badger

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Meles meles
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
6-16 yrs
TOP SPEED
30 km/h
WEIGHT
10-12 kg
LENGTH
56-90 cm

The European badger has powerfully built body, short tail and short, solid limbs. The skull is heavy and large with a prominent sagittal crest and short, triangular paroccipital processes. Their teeth include prominent canines, flattened molars and small incisors. The European badgers are easily recognizable due to dark stripes, stretching from their nose to the eyes and ears, and separated by a white stripe in the middle. The coat on their back is grizzled gray with individual hairs, being white at the base and darker at the tip. Venter coat is usually dark grey or black in color.

Distibution

They are found throughout most of Europe as well as western Asia. The area of their distribution extends southward to southeastern coast of China and northward, reaching the Russian Arctic Circle and Finland. They live in wide variety of habitats such as scrub, hedges, riverine areas, farmland, grassland, steppes and semi-deserts. However, their preferred habitat is conifer, deciduous and mixed woodlands, adjacent to open fields.

European Badger habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

The Eurasian badger is nocturnal animal. The badgers are most active at sunrise and sunset. Badgers are highly social animals, gathering in clans - family groups that may include up to 12 individuals and only one dominant breeding pair. However, during periods of food shortage, some individuals, belonging to clans, isolate themselves, leading solitary life. Throughout the territory of each clan, there are multiple setts - large, communal burrows, constructed by members of the clan. The main sett is usually situated in the center of the clan's territory and contains more adult individuals, compared to other setts.

Diet and Nutrition

They are omnivores, consuming food of both plant and animal origin. The usual diet of the Eurasian badger includes fruit, earth worms, insects, frogs, lizards, eggs, small mammals as well as carrion.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
Year-round, peaks occur in February-May and August-October
PREGNANCY DURATION
9-12 months
BABY CARRYING
1-6 cubs
INDEPENDENT AGE
2.5 months
FEMALE NAME
sow
MALE NAME
boar
BABY NAME
kit, cub

European badgers don't have certain mating system. Thus, male badgers are usually monogamous, mating once in a lifetime. However, female badgers can have polygamous behavior, mating with a number of males. Meanwhile, males do not restrict access of other males to their mates, but fiercely defend the mates from potential predators. They breed throughout the year with two peak seasons, occurring in February-May and August-October. Gestation period lasts 9-12 months, yielding 1-6 cubs with 3 on average. Young are born in a den, leaving the den at about 8-10 months old. Then, at the age of two and a half months, the cubs are weaned. Sexual maturity is reached at about 1 year old.

Population

Population threats

Throughout their range, these animals are threatened by fragmentation and loss of habitat. They are persecuted due to being pest crops and disease vectors. In addition, the badgers are often hunted for sport and hit by cars.

Population number

According to IUCN, the European badger is common and widespread throughout its range but the total number of their population is unknown. However, in 1990, the estimated badger population in Russia was about 30,000 individuals. The number of population is currently stable, and on the IUCN Red List, the species is classified as Least Concern (LC).

Ecological niche

The major part of their diet consists of invertebrates. Meanwhile, consuming insects, badgers control a large number of insect species' populations. On the other hand, due to eating fruit, they become important seed dispersers throughout the area of their range. According to one study, only a small percentage of seeds are damaged, when ingested by badgers.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Males are referred to as "boars" while females are called "sows". Young badgers are known as cubs.
  • Their name originates from the French ‘bêcheur’, which means "digger"
  • In Wales, this animal is called ‘moch daear’, meaning ‘earth pig’.
  • They are able to eat hedgehogs due to having extremely thick skin and long claws.
  • They can easily find rabbit nests and dig for grubs under the surface due to having a keen sense of smell.
  • They construct setts - underground burrow systems. These setts along with regular paths, that badgers use on the ground, can exist for centuries.
  • Badgers are amazingly clean animals due to using communal toilets. Their toilets consist of shallow pits and are located away from the setts, on the edge of their territory. Moreover, these animals do not bring food into their setts.
  • They enjoy eating insects, bluebell bulbs as well as elder berries that grow near to their setts. Also, they normally eat large amount of earthworms - up to several hundred earthworms per night.

References

1. European Badger Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_badger
2. European Badger on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/29673/0

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