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These reclusive animals spend most of their daylight hours underground, so their lifestyle is something of a mystery. Badgers live mainly in sparsely inhabited open land and in the Untied States are usually found west of the Mississippi. They are distinguished by black and white striped faces. Their broad, thick-set bodies on short legs make badgers look awkward when they run.
Habits: Badgers live in family groups during spring and summer, when young are being reared. The size of a group depends on food supplies. Sometimes several groups live in the same location. Each group lives in an underground den. Group members scent mark each other for recognition. Badgers often travel long distances over frequently used paths in search of food. Males, called boars, also roam during the breeding season, searching for mates. Badgers do not hibernate, but in cold weather they may sleep in the den for two or three nights in a row.
Breeding: Badgers mate year round but are most active from February to May. Implantation of the egg in the womb is usually delayed until December, and the young are born the following February. Usually one to four cubs are born underground in a special nursery area. They are suckled by their mother in this nursery area for 8 weeks. Then they begin searching for food with her outside of the den, although they may not be completely weaned until they are 32 weeks old. They are blind for about five weeks after birth.
Food and Hunting: The badger is a true omnivore; it eats both plant and animal life. Among its usual foods are earthworms, insects, slugs, and frogs, a wide variety of roots, plants, and fruits, and small mammals such as rabbits, moles, and rats – especially their young. Badgers usually leave their dens at dusk to search for food. Because their eyesight is poor, they rely on their sharp senses of smell and hearing to detect food sources. Groups of badgers often forage together, although the dominant boar takes the best for himself.
Badger and Man: The badgers only natural enemy is humans. Probably the greatest danger comes from motorists. Hunters trap badgers for their fine hair, which is made into shaving and artists’ brushes. The so called sport of badger baiting, which results in slow and painful death, is now illegal but still continues in some places. Fox hunters sometimes block the entrances to badger dens to keep foxes from escaping into them. Although the badgers dig out their entrances again, naturalists say that the reduced air flow to the dens interferes with the badgers’ feeding and causes undue stress to the animals.
Key Facts: Sizes:
Length: 2-3ft., nose to tail
Height: About 12 in. to shoulder
Weight: Males, 20-37 lb. Females, 14-28 lb.
Sexual maturity: Males, 2 years old. Females, from 1 year
Mating: Usually February-May
Birth: Usually the spring following mating
No. of Young: 1-4 cubs
Habit: Nocturnal and solitary
Diet: Earthworms, roots, grasses, fruits, insects, mice, rats, shrews, gophers, and young rabbits
Life span: 15 years
Related Species: There are 6 genera of badgers distributed worldwide
Distribution: The badger inhabits open prairies and plains of the western United States and Canada. It is found widely throughout Europe and Asia.
Conservation: It is illegal to mistreat badgers. It is necessary to get a license to kill badgers.
The Badgers Den: The underground den, or sett, contains a network of tunnels and chambers and often has many entrances. The badger lines the chambers with bedding of grass or leaves, which it replaces frequently with fresh materials. Badger cubs are born underground and spend the first 8 weeks in a special nursery area in the den.
Nature watch: Badgers are easiest to see in summer. The best location for viewing them is from the low branches of a tree above, and downwind from, a dens entrances. Arrive an hour before sunset, and stay still. With luck, you will see a snout appear from the entrance to sniff the air for danger; then the badger emerges, followed by others in the group.
Did You Know:
A quarter of all badgers die before they are two months old. Only a third survive their first three years.
A badger holds fresh bedding between chin and forepaws and enters the den backwards.
Rabbits, mice, and foxes may share badgers’ dens.
The badgers strong jaw is designed in such a way that it cannot be dislocated without the skulls being fractured.
Scars above the tail indicate a recent skirmish with another badger to establish dominance.
The badger has a strong, flexible snout that helps it poke around through the soil.
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