Badgers (All About)
The badger is a large nocturnal mammal. It is very common in Ireland, but is rarely seen as it is nocturnal. It has a white head with a black nose and two broad black stripes running down its face. The rest of its body is grey. It is a native Irish species — earliest records are from a wedge grave at Lough Gur in Co. Limerick.Read moreRead less
Badgers live in setts which they excavate underground. These may be very old indeed and consist of many tunnels underground with several entrances. A family group will live here and defend its territory against neighbouring badger groups. There is usually a dominant male in each group and several females. Mating takes place in April and May but because of delayed implantation of the fertilised egg the young are not born until the following February or March. Pregnant females prepare a birth chamber by removing all the old bedding and airing it up in the open air and then it is returned together with fresh material to make the new bedding material.
After birth the three to five cubs stay underground for eight weeks. They then venture above ground, but their mothers will continue to nurse them for another three months. By the end of the year they are fully independent. Young males then disperse widely, whereas young females stay close to home. Badgers are omnivores — which means that they can digest both plant and animal food. The most common item in their diet is the earthworm and they will eat up to 200 earthworms in a single night. They often dig up lawns and fields to get at the earthworms. They also eat beetles, slugs, snails, frogs, rabbits, mice, rats and hedgehogs. They are also partial to blackberries, elderberries, apples, acorns and fungi.
With such a wide range of food no wonder they are so abundant. It is estimated that there are up to 250,000 badgers in Ireland. Badgers suffer from tuberculosis, which they pick up from cattle and indeed can pass on to cattle. A vaccine to eradicate this disease in badgers is currently being developed. They are a totally protected species under Irish and European legislation, so it is completely illegal to hunt them or trap them.
Things to do
Contact a local wildlife expert and ask where the nearest badger sett is. Bring the class on a visit to see this.