meles [mel' Ez mel' Ez]
This badger has a stocky
3-foot-long body, short tail and short but
powerful legs armed with strong claws on the
front feet. Average weight is 22 to 35 pounds,
with males being only slightly larger and heavier
than females. The coloration is grayish on the
body, being darker gray to almost black on the
legs. It is distinguished from other badgers by
the markings on its head -- the majority of the
face is white, with two black stripes, one on
each side of the head, running laterally across
the face, from the nose, over the eyes, to the
base of the ears (the American badger, by contrast, has a dark-colored face
with a single white stripe).
Distribution and Habitat
The Eurasian badger is found
throughout Europe and Asia, as far north as
Norway and Sweden, as far east as Japan, and as
far south as southern China. It prefers densely
forested areas adjacent to areas of wide open
fields, but will live almost anywhere, including
coastal habitats and even urban areas.
Badgers are opportunistic and
omnivorous feeders. They dine on a wide variety
of invertebrates (earthworms, insects, mollusks,
beetle and wasp larvae), rodents, ground-nesting
birds, small reptiles, frogs, and carrion.
Vegetable foods include acorns, nuts, berries,
fruits, seeds, cereal grains, tubers, roots,
bulbs, and mushrooms.
European badgers live in clans
of up to 20 or so individuals, with clans being
larger and more closely knit in colder climates.
All the badgers in a clan are closely related.
The clan is lead by a dominant pair, a male and a
female, and the rest of the clan is their
offspring. The dominant male may mate with
several of the females in the clan, but if a
subordinate female's pregnancy is carried to term
the dominant female will track down and kill her
Clans live in large underground
catacombs called setts. Usually
constructed in wooded areas, these are
interlocking tunnels which contain the nesting
and sleeping chambers, and often have a dozen or
more entrances and exits to the surface. Setts
are inherited from parents, and can be centuries
old. Badgers are very meticulously clean animals,
and the setts are kept immaculate. Bedding
material, which is comprised of dried grass, moss
and leaves, is changed frequently.
Clans maintain home ranges of
50 to 150 hectares, with little to no overlap
between clans. Eurasian badgers are very
territorial and will defend their home ranges
from other badgers. Borders are scent marked and
patrolled by the dominant male. Individual
badgers have ranges within the clan's territory,
and border fights do occasionally occur.
Mating takes place in July or
August but the embryos do not begin to develop
until December or January. Gestation lasts for
seven weeks after implantation, and one to five
young are born during February or March.
Newborn cubs are about 4-5
inches in length. Their eyes and ears open at
five weeks, their teeth erupt at about six weeks,
and they are weaned at about six months. For the
first six to eight weeks of their life they stay
underground, then make their first, tentative
visits to the outside world. They will leave
their birth setts for good in October or
November, and reach sexual maturity at about 12
to 15 months of age. Parental care is provided
entirely by the mother.
Badgers are almost exclusively
nocturnal, coming out in daylight only on very
Signs of the badgers' presence
are unmistakable. They have regular, well-trodden
paths leading from the sett which may be followed
for some distance, often running to a stream or
pond where they habitually drink. Because of this
habit small gates can be built in wire fences,
constructed to keep out rabbits and other pests
from farmlands and forests but allowing the
beneficial badgers (who prey on those pests) to
come and go as they wish.
Adult badgers have little to
fear from predators. If cornered, they are very
tenacious, and are capable of inflicting serious
damage with their powerful jaws and sharp claws.
genus & species Meles meles
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