Badgers are nocturnal, powerful, social animals.

They live much of their lives below ground in family groups, and, sadly, the only time many people see them is as carcases on the roads, victims of today's high-speed and increasingly busy traffic.

Anyone lucky enough to watch them in the wild as they emerge, groom, feed and interact will understand why these iconic animals hold such a place in the nation's affections.

Badgers are supreme diggers, and it seems likely that their name is derived from the French for digger-becheur. Typically in the wild they live for five to seven years, though exceptionally some survive until they reach 12 or 13, even more. Females are called sows, males are boars and the young are cubs.

Body weight of adult badgers varies with the season, the area in which they live, the amount of food available and their age. They are at their heaviest in late autumn as they fatten up for winter. They then feed less, spend more time inactive underground and their weight falls away. Sows are at their lightest after giving birth.

Research at Woodchester Park, in Gloucestershire, where badgers have been studied since the seventies, showed that typically, boars weigh around 1kg more than sows throughout the year, averaging around 9.3kg compared to sows at a touch over 8kg.

Woodchester has one of the highest known badger densities anywhere, so competition for food is keen, which explains why badgers in Somerset, for example, where there is less competition, tend to be considerably heavier, boars averaging 11.6 kg and sows just over 10 kg. Some of the heaviest British badgers recorded have reached weights of 23-27 kg.

Other than the genitalia, normally visible only when badgers sit up to scratch or lie back, there are no obvious, utterly reliable visual differences between the sexes, though boars tend to be heavier built, have a broader head, the nose may seem blunter when viewed from the side and the tail is often thinner and whiter. When a sow is heavily lactating her glands can often be seen, however, many experienced badger watchers admit that they have often failed to correctly identify boars from sows. It is usually not until a "boar" starts to suckle cubs in full view that "he" becomes "she".

How many badgers are there? Based on the most recent national survey of badger setts, carried out in 1997, which assumed an average of six to each main (breeding) sett, the UK's badger population is put at around 300,000. Defra is shortly to produce a report with updated estimates. Claims of an explosion in badger numbers can be discounted.

...Excerpt and images taken from the Badger Trust official website

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