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European Badger

The European Badger is a mammal indigenous to most of Europe. It is a member of the Mustelidae family, and so is related to the stoats, otters, weasels, minks and other badgers.

The general hue of its fur is grey above and black on the under parts with a distinctive black and white striped face and white-tipped ears. European badgers are around 70 cm long with a tail of about 20 cm and weigh 10 kg on average, but weights can vary enormously. Badgers do not hibernate, although in areas with cold winter climates they may become torpid for two or so days at a time having put on fat in the autumn to help them get through the winter months.

Though classified as belonging to the order Carnivora, badgers are effectively omnivorous and insectivorous; most of their diet consists of earthworms, although they also eat insects, spiders, scorpions, small mammals, eggs, young birds, reptiles, berries, roots, bulbs, nuts, and fruit. Badgers also dig up the nests of wasps and bumblebees in order to eat the larvae. Badgers will eat carrion, particularly in locations where there are predators that prey on larger animals, making it possible for the badgers to scavenge kills.

Badgers prefer grazed pasture and woodland, which have high numbers of earthworms exposed, and dislike clay soil, which is difficult to dig even with their powerful claws. In urban areas, some badgers scavenge food from bins and gardens.

Badgers are nocturnal and spend the day in their setts, or extensive networks of tunnels dug in well-drained ground (or sometimes beneath buildings or roads). Setts give shelter from the weather and predators, which are humans, wolves and leopards. Badgers are territorial, but can be found in groups often called clans. Group size varies between 2 and 12. Each clan has a dominant male and female which are often (but not always) the only members of the clan to reproduce. Female badgers can display delayed implantation: after mating at any time of the year, they keep the fertilised eggs in suspended development until an appropriate time, at which stage the eggs are implanted and begin developing. Badgers have a gestation period of 7–8 weeks and give birth to 1-5 offspring. Males are called boars and females sows; the young are cubs. Badgers live for up to 15 years (average 3 years) in the wild. If they survive their first year, the most common cause of death is by road traffic.