Badgering away in Scotland

Our guest blogger today, Eddie Palmer, is the chairman of Scottish Badgers. Eddie tells us all about these charismatic animals — and what we can do to help protect them.

6 @SBP Crossing water on fallen tree night SBP cropped - for SM

Copyright @ScotlandBigPicture

Our Scottish badger is the same animal that is found right across Europe and Asia. The oldest badger bone remains found in these islands were carbon-dated to 35,000 years ago. Badgers are between half a metre and a metre in length, and a burrowing animal, with a distinctive black and white face, and dense fur which looks grey. They have a good sense of smell, but very poor eyesight. An extended family, or ‘clan’ can occupy several setts in ancestral territory used for many years.

Sadly, most people have never seen a live badger – only dead ones at the sides of roads at certain times of the year. The experience of seeing badger cubs at play in the spring is truly memorable. Badgers live underground in a maze of tunnels and chambers called setts and come out mainly at night time to feed.

9 @SBP Dry stane dyke cropped

Picture copyright @ScottishBigPicture


  • In Scotland, badgers live only on the mainland, and not on the islands, apart from Arran, where they were introduced by Victorians for sport.
  • Badgers belong to the order known as ‘mustelids’ – together with otters, stoats, weasels and pine martens.
  • Badgers can eat up to 200 worms a night!
  • A badger ‘sett’ is the name for its burrow, and ‘cete’ is one collective noun for a group of badgers.
  • A badger sett can extend for at least 30 metres underground from an entrance.
  • Badgers also use day nests, in the daytime, to relax and sleep.


    Badger cubs at play in the spring. Video credit @ingham_mal

Where badgers live – Badger setts can be anywhere – in woodland, hedgerows, in sand dunes , in open fields, in gardens, and under patios and decking. Any habitation is a sett, and is protected by law. The number of sett entrances does not correspond to the number of badgers inside.  There could be 10 badgers in a three hole sett, and only six animals in a forty hole sett.

Badger Sett.©Lorne Gill/SNH

A badger sett. Copyright SNH/Lorne Gill.

Badger signs – How do we know badgers are around? There are many signs to look for, including newly dug earth (snuffle holes), badger hair in spoil (excavated material found at sett entrances), foraging signs nearby (dug earth), latrines, beaten paths between badger holes, and claw marks on tree branches.

What do badgers eat? – Badgers are omnivorous and eat a wide variety of food, but they mainly eat earthworms. They also feed on insects, larvae, tubers, fruit, nuts, cereal crops, eggs, slugs and fungi. They move slowly over land at night, covering at least half a mile from the sett.

The Badger Year – Sows delay implantation, mating at any time of year, but giving birth in February. This is so there is food for the young when they emerge above ground in early May. During this time, last year’s cubs, the yearlings, are pushed out to fend for themselves and this is why so many get killed on roads. Autumn sees a period of feeding up for the winter, with again more killed on the road as they forage. From November to February, badgers go into ‘torpor’, which isn’t really hibernating, but they do become slower and less active.

There are problems for badgers – They may be disturbed by development, including forestry and agriculture, and badger baiting with dogs still goes on.


  • Reporting road casualties to us on the Scottish Badger website – this is important for finding setts.
  • Telling us about badger setts – we need accurate records in order to protect badgers.
  • Informing us about any possible crimes or disturbance to badgers.


Badgers for Beginners course Falls of Clyde Oct 2016 - small

Participants at a Badgers for Beginners course at the Falls of Clyde.


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