Here in the Highlands of Scotland we are blessed with an abundance of rich wildlife, sometimes literally on our doorstep! While Badgers may be found across the world, given their resilience and ability to adapt, they are nonetheless enjoyed and celebrated here, and a sighting is always memorable. Scotland’s Badgers are the most protected in the UK.

What do Badgers look like and how large are they?

The Badger is Britain’s largest omnivore. It is powerfully built, with a small head, bearing distinctive black and white lateral stripes on the face. It is commonly grey, although small genetically-caused variations can exist, sometimes causing a gingery looking coat. Their eyes are small, as are their ears, and despite their huge sharp claws, Badgers appear quite dainty whilst eating! The average total length is 75cm for males and 72cm for females. Both have tails of around 15cms.

Badgers (Jamie Sippitt)

To which animal family do Badgers belong?

Badgers belong to the group known as Mustelids, alongside Otter, Pine Marten, Stoat, Weasel, Polecat and Mink.

Where can they be found?

While found in a range of habitats, Badgers appear to prefer deciduous woodland, arable farmland and intensive grassland in which to build their homes. In Scotland the regions thought to have the highest densities of setts are Highland, Central, Tayside, Lothians and the Scottish Borders, the geological make-up of the land perhaps reflecting that Badgers need for soft, light soils, easy for extensive digging.

What does a Badger build as a home?

Badgers live in a sett as part of an extended family group known as a clan or cete (not to be confused with ‘sett’, their home) This sett consists of a number of chambers dug deeply underground, each lined to provide comfortable sleeping accommodation for 2-3 Badgers. Badgers will regularly move chambers, sharing with other members of the family. As the clan grows, the sett may be extended, with new chambers added on. It is not unusual for a sett to be decades old, sometimes even centuries. There will usually be up to 20 entrances to any one sett, although in much older setts this may be considerably more. Latrines in the form of shallow pits, are dug at the edge of the territory and are uncovered, letting other clans know of the present residents’ presence.

Badger Sett (https://scottishbadgers.org.uk)
Badger Sett (https://scottishbadgers.org.uk)

When are Badger cubs born?

Badgers have a complex breeding cycle. While mating can take place in any month, it tends to happen in spring and then again in autumn. Delayed implantation enables the young to be born early the following year – usually mid-January/early February. Litters can be up to five in size, although sadly there is a 50% mortality rate in the first year of life, with more males being lost than females. Badgers who make it through their first year however, can live up to 14 years in the wild.

What does a Badgers diet consist of?

Badgers are omnivores, enjoying a rich and varied diet of anything tasty that comes their way! They feed largely on earthworms, but when these are not readily available they are happy to feast on nuts, berries, birds’ eggs, beetles, frogs, carrion and so on.

Are Badgers agile?

Badgers are surprisingly agile! They are extremely fast runners when they want to be, despite looking quite lumbering in their slower movements. (We even have a Badger here at Speyside Wildlife who regularly climbs the trunk of a tree!) Badgers can be extremely determined in reaching the food they want and will use their powerful chest and front legs to dig and scrape until they get it.

Badger (Jane Hope)
Badger Tree Climbing (Richard Smith)

Are Badgers protected?

Yes. Badgers and their homes are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act (1992), with Scotland’s Badgers being the most protected in the UK. It is an offence to kill or injure a Badger or interfere with /obstruct a sett, allow a dog to enter a sett or sell or possess a live Badger. It is also an offence to possess a dead Badger or anything derived from one.

How can I see Badgers?

Badgers are nocturnal although in the summer months they may be see in in daylight. They are naturally shy animals and you will be lucky to see one in the wild. Here, at Speyside Wildlife our hide is set in an area of ancient woodland, where earthworms – the favoured food of Badgers – exist in high density. To get a great chance to see these beautiful animals you can book a place on our Evening Mammal Watch where Badgers are regular and much-loved visitors!

Badger watching (Finlay)
Speyside Wildlifes Mammal Hide (Kate Mennie)

You can watch a 360film of hide experience here.

Leave a Reply