Bundles of Badgers: It’s Badger Cub Season!

A review of badger cub behavioural ecology as June sees more badger cubs emerging from their natal sett.

June is an exciting time of year for nature lovers up and down the country as natural resources abound, bringing birds, insects, wildflowers, and amongst them, Britain's last remaining large carnivore: the badger. Just as the good weather emerges, so do this year’s badger cubs, who at 4 months of age, start to venture above ground and explore further from their natal sett.

Badger cubs playing at the sett entrance © Billy Heaney

At this age, badger cubs weigh a little over 3kg, roughly the same weight as a basketball! This, combined with their rotund anatomy and poor eyesight, make badger cubs rather comical as they tend to shuffle around and bounce about whilst exploring and playing with each other.

Badger cub life above ground

For these cubs, exploration outside the sett not only provides additional play opportunities, but life above ground allows them to start foraging and feeding on invertebrate food for the first time. Although badgers are part of the Carnivora order, badgers are generalist feeders with a wide-ranging seasonal diet, including fruits and insects. They are even very fond of peanuts! The badger’s primary food source, however, is earthworms. Earthworm-studded scat is one of the key indicators of badger presence, as badgers will toilet in the same area known as ‘latrines’, which are often found a little way away from their setts as markers of their territory.

Olfactory communication is really important for badgers. Badgers will carefully select their latrine sites and revisit each one to refresh their scent marks. As smell is a primary mode of communication for badgers, many an inquisitive badger cub has been caught on camera nosing around to find themselves snout deep in all sorts of new and exciting information. One nature enthusiast was even lucky enough to catch on their trail camera a young badger sniffing a baby lamb who had been born at the entrance to the badger’s sett. It was quite the surprise for the badger when the lamb moved!