Species Guide - Eurasian Badger

08th July 2013
The badger is one of Britain’s most iconic wild creatures, and at the present time one of our most prolific. I have spent many happy hours watching these creatures, who’s lives seem to mirror our own in so many ways.

Spending time around a sett you will see you will see beds being changed, rowdy teenagers and comical youngsters. I would recommend that everyone should spend time quietly observing your local sett, first however, you will need to find it.

Unlike a number of the mammals in our countryside the badger has a fixed address and this may be a sett that has been used by the same extended family for decades. The stoat for example can have any number of homes dotted around a large area.

Field Signs
I have found that a good place to look for badgers are on the edge of woodland or field edges, particularly where there is some form of bank for them to dig into. There will be a number of entrances to the sett, typically these are approximately 30cm wide and 20 to 30cm high. Generally they can appear wider than high giving an oval shape to the hole. You will find that there are well worn paths radiating out and between the entrances with large well compacted soil mounds outside the entrances. On occasion you may also find large balls of drying grass that have been gathered up ready to take down into the sett to replenish bedding.

The badgers footprints show five toes on each foot with the nails well distinguished on the print. Other typical signs around a sett will be well rubbed tree stumps, some almost polished smooth where the badgers have scratched their backs over a long period of time. You can also see the marks of the badgers nails where they have scraped them into tree trunks up to a metre from the ground.

One sign I always look for when scouting out a new sett is the badger’s latrine. Typically these consist of a number of shallow pits dug into the ground, measuring around 15 to 20cm across. More often than not a number of deposits of grey ooze will be found in them. This does depend largely on the food the badger has been eating and it would seem that this faeces is the result of their favourite food, earth worms.

Watching Badgers
The best time of year to get a glimpse of these fascinating creatures is from May to August. When the days are long the badger has to come out early to gather enough food, which gives us the chance to view them in good light. May into June is also when the young badgers are making their first exit from the sett.

You still need to plan your visit, and as always the welfare of the animals comes first. The badgers eyesight is pretty poor but there sense of smell and hearing are excellent. With this in mind, check the wind direction and ensure that you are downwind of the sett. It is also useful if you can place yourself with your back against trees or a hedgerow. I have sat with badgers as little as three metres away from me in broad daylight and they have not detected me.
Remain silent and keep movement to a minimal and you should have no problems having a magical encounter with these wonderful creatures.

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