Understand mammal behaviour – part 2: badgers

Discover all you need to know about the protective, parenting practice of the badger. 

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Discover all you need to know about the protective, parenting practice of the badger. 

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Badger cubs are born in early February, but life for newborns is dangerous. In the first couple of weeks, up to a third may die underground; most of them will have been killed by sows who have their own cubs.

First steps

The survivors emerge from the sett when they are nine to ten weeks old. Watching a sett in late April and early May is the best time to see the cubs’ first foray above ground.

Keep an eye on the entrance because they will probably remain in it, or nearby, as well as staying extremely close to their mother.

She will herd them below ground at the first sign of danger, and even drag a cub to safety by the scruff of its neck.

Foraging trips

Sometimes the sow will take her young on short trips while she is foraging, but she is very wary of danger.

When a female appeared in my garden with three very young cubs, she spent most of her time rounding them up and trying to hide them in the flowerbeds while she ate the peanuts on the lawn.

Fox threat

The sow was particularly nervous when there were foxes around, repeatedly rushing at them with her back arched and fur raised to make herself look larger and more aggressive. Females with cubs may even corner and kill foxes.

Out of control

A few nights later, the sow had given up trying to marshal her cubs; they chased each other around the lawn, seemingly oblivious to any threat from the foxes.

Find out more about the work of illustrator Federico Gemma. 

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