Where will you find badgers?
Despite a significant population size spread across mainland Scotland, the chances of seeing a badger in the wild are slim as they are nocturnal creatures who like to spend their time underground. They are most common in woodland.
With their distinctive black and white-striped face and bushy tails, badgers are unlike any other mammals in Scotland.
They thrive on socialising with their own species and like to live in decent-sized, family-like groups in an underground network of tunnels called a sett. They often have more than one sett across their territory.
Though it’s uncommon to see a badger, a sett is easily distinguished by their large, tidy entrances and close-by latrine pits where they do the toilet. That’s right – badgers are toilet-trained wildlife!
You can observe badgers from a safe distance and may be lucky enough to see them emerge from a sett.
Cub season is in January and February but they don’t leave their setts for a few months, meaning the greatest chance of seeing them is in late spring or early summer.
Badgers are midnight munchers, leaving their setts when the sun goes down to feast on earthworms, which is their staple diet. That being said, they’ll also happily tuck in to fruit such as apples and plums as well as nuts, seeds and crops.
They also eat small mammals such as mice, rats, frogs and hedgehogs. Their fantastic sense of smell and long claws are a great help in sniffing out and catching a meal.
If food is in short supply, they may venture out in the open during daylight to forage or even enter areas where people are more likely to see them, despite their shyness.
Main threats to badgers
Badger baiting is still a depressingly common activity in Scotland. Badger baiting involves digging a badger out of its sett, where dogs lie in wait to pounce on it and fight to the death. As well as normally resulting in the death of a badger, the dogs involved can sustain horrendous injuries too. We’ve seen instances where dogs have had parts of their face missing due to the injuries caused by a badger as it fights for its life. Badger baiting has been illegal in the UK for decades.
If you're concerned about badger baiting keep an eye out for these signs it may be happening in your local area:
- People in rural locations with spades, especially at unusual times such as late at night.
- Terriers wearing locator collars so baiters know where to dig. They may also be wearing chin guards to try and protect them from injury.
- Bigger dogs, such as lurchers, to fight any badgers flushed out by the terriers.
- A ‘crowning down hole’. This is usually lower down the slope from the badger entrance to allow baiters to dig down to the badgers bedding or nesting chamber.
- Sometimes the badger is tied up so you may see rope or discarded leads in the vicinity.
Our special investigations unit investigates reports of badger baiting. They also report people for prosecution if they find evidence they have taken part in this cruel bloodsport.
Worried about a badger?
If you have concerns about badger baiting taking place, call our animal helpline on 03000 999 999 where you can pass on the information you have confidentially.
There are strong legal protections in place for badgers and their habitats, but sadly these had to be introduced due to the shocking level of persecution they have faced.
If you come across an injured badger, please contact our helpline. You should also get in touch if you come across a badger during daylight hours as it may be struggling. Any baby badger discovered above ground likely needs our help too.
You should observe the badger until one of our animal rescue officers arrives to assist. Do not attempt to hold or touch it. Badgers are wild animals and can be come aggressive, especially if they feel threatened whilst injured.
How we help badgers
Once we rescue a badger, it is brought to our National Wildlife Rescue Centre to be assessed and receive appropriate treatment and rehabilitation with the goal of successfully reintroducing to the wild.
We keep badgers in a dark pen where they have access to an outside area to dig, climb and explore. This aims to replicate their typical environment and provide stimulation during the night. During the day, we’ll minimise disturbances too.
With babies, we’ll try and group them together so they socialise and replicate the groups they form in the wild. This also means they can be released together. We’ll hand-rear them until they are able to forage and get by on their own, at which point we’ll step back and minimise human contact so the badgers can become truly wild.