Gosforth Nature Reserve Journal: Badgers by Night

Enjoy a closer look at Gosforth Nature Reserve’s secretive Badgers in a new blog by local naturalist and volunteer, Christopher Wren.

The badger is our largest terrestrial carnivore and is the only one of our seven mustelids (weasel family) species to live in a family group. Britain has the highest density of badgers in the world, thanks to the availability of habitat and the abundance of earthworms.

Mainly nocturnal in habit, badgers spend time socialising when they emerge from the sett in the evening before setting off to forage, usually alone. Their thick coats harbour a lot of fleas so they spend time grooming, dealing with the parts they can reach themselves and grooming each other for areas out of reach (allo-grooming). These three badgers were scratching, play fighting and grooming each other outside the sett. They also scent-mark each other to reinforce the shared family scent.

A badger’s keenest sense is smell (said to be a few hundred times more sensitive than our own) but its hearing is also acute. When it first emerges from the sett it is very alert, sniffing the air and listening for any sign of danger. This badger was scenting the air and appeared to be listening to the birdsong.

Compared with most nocturnal animals, badgers have relatively small eyes, implying that vision is less important to them. This one was very aware of the camera, although we don’t know for certain that badgers can see red light.

A badger’s sett can be used by the same clan for many generations. The best habitat for badgers is woodland with nearby fields for foraging so Gosforth Nature Reserve, with surrounding fields and golf courses, is ideal. A sett usually houses up to eight individuals and has many tunnels and multiple entrances. Sleeping quarters branch off the tunnels and are furnished with dry bedding which is changed regularly. The next video shows the dominant female doing the housework.

Christopher Wren
Local Naturalist and Volunteer

Christopher Wren is a volunteer in Gosforth Nature Reserve and a local naturalist, interested in most areas of natural history, especially mammals and using trail cameras to study their behaviour.

Visit Chris’ blog for more updates on North East’s wildlife – TrogTrogBlog