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These reclusive animals, also known as European badgers, spend most of their daylight hours underground, so their lifestyle is something of a mystery. Old world, or European, badgers live in the forests and woodlands of Europe and Asia. They are distinguished by their black and white striped faces and gray black fur. Their broad, thick set bodies set on short legs make badgers look awkward when they run.

Old world badgers live in family groups during spring and summer when young are being reared. The size of a group depends on food supplies. Sometimes, several groups of badgers live in the same location. Each family lives in an underground den. Group members scent mark each other for recognition. Badgers do not hibernate, but in cold weather, they may sleep in the den for two or three nights in a row.

The badger is a true omnivore, it eats both plant and animal life. Its usual food includes earthworms, slugs, insects, and frogs, a variety of roots, plants and fruits, and mammals, such as rabbits, moles, and rats, especially their young. Badgers search for food at dusk. Their eyesight is poor, so they rely on their sharp senses of smell and hearing to detect food sources. Groups of badgers often forage together, although the dominant boar takes the best for himself.

Badgers mate year round, but are most active from late winter to midsummer. Implantation of the eggs in the womb is delayed until December, and young are born in the following February. Usually, three to four cubs are born underground in a special nursery area. The mother suckles them for eight weeks. The cubs then begin hunting for food with her, although they will not be completely weaned until they are 32 weeks old.

The badger’s only natural enemy is man. Probably the greatest danger comes from motorists. Hunters trap badgers for their fine hair, which is made into shaving and artists brushes. The so called sport of badger baiting, which results in a slow and painful death, is now illegal, but still continues in some places. The badgers population has declined in most of its European range, but numbers have recovered to between 100,000 and 200,000 in Great Britain. Hunters must be licensed to kill badgers.