Identifying badgers

Badger printsPhoto: Paw prints imprinted into soil from a badger (photo by David Perez (Own work) [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons)

Physical features and signs

Badgers are very easily identifiable with distinct black and white striped head and grey fur. The average adult will measure in at about 75cm (30in), with a small head and eyes, a thick short neck and a long wedge shaped body. However due to their nocturnal lifestyle and shyness around people they can be a rare sight despite their relative abundance. Often it is equally important in being able to identify the signs of badgers to assess their presence, some signs are as follows:

  • Setts: badgers will generally build their setts on slopes and embankments where the soil in generally well drained. The setts can range from a single entrance to multiple entrances leading into underground complexes.  Sett entrances can vary in size but generally they measure at about 30cm at the bottom width and a height of around 20cm. An obvious tell-tale sign of an active badger sett is excavated soil outside the entrances.
  • Latrines: generally badgers will dig out shallow holes called ‘dung pits’ for defecation purposes, with a collection of these making a latrine. Commonly these are found near feeding sites or near to the main setts.
  • Paths: Badgers are creatures of habit and will use the same musk-scented trails that their ancestors before them used. The paths are usually be a muddy  trail through woodlands and grasslands to feeding sites, often getting less obvious the further away from their setts.
  • Hair and prints: badger hair is distinctive, when compared to other UK mammals such as the fox and rabbit. Dirty with a silver top and dark band, generally the hair is 70mm in length with an oval cross section. If rubbed between fingertips the hair feels course and wiry. Badger prints can also be used to distinguish identify the species, they have five claws and a large wedge shaped central pad, these may be more difficult to identify if not fresh.
  • Scratching trees: Scratch marks can be found on trees and dead wood near setts (often on elder), often vertical marks extending through to the base. The reason for these ranges from territorial markers, to claw maintenance and stretching after a day underground.

Badger SettPhoto: Badger sett located within a field margin. (photo by:Derek Harper [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

To find out more about identification visit the Badger Trust website

Reporting Protected Species

You should record the presence of protected species on a national database. This can done by contacting the local Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation (SNCO).  Alternatively you can record online at the National Biodiversity Network. You should also alert the appropriate land owner, council and or management body to the presence and location of this species.  Incidents, dead badgers and setts can be reported to the Badger Trust, for use in further protecting badgers.

You can find out more about badgers at the Badger Trust more information about local badgers can be obtained from your local badger groups.