|by Marcia Malory|
Badgers are members of the family Mustelidae, which also includes the weasel, the skunk, the polecat, the ermine (or stoat), the pine marten and the otter.
All of the Mustelidae, except for the sea otter, have scent glands under their tails.
The badger's home is a large underground burrow system known as a sett. The sett has several large chambers where it sleeps and breeds and smaller ones that are sometimes used for defecation.
A complex network of tunnels links all the chambers.
During the day, when badgers are not resting, they are busy digging - enlarging underground passageways.
They go outside at dusk, where they hunt, play and look for new bedding.
The badger's low, wedge-shaped body is designed for digging.
Strong, short legs are good for working in confined spaces.
The badger has large muscles on its forelimbs and neck and long claws - particularly the front claws.
It enlarges a tunnel by loosening the soil with rapid strokes of its front legs.
Its back legs sweep away the soil that collects underneath its body as it digs.
To make bedding, the badger gathers bundles of dry vegetation. It scrapes the pieces together with its claws and bites of tough stalks.
It hugs a bundle to its chest, using its chin and front legs to hold it in place, and then shuffles backward toward the sett. Eventually, it goes down the tunnel tail first.
The badger spends a large amount of time moving bedding to and from its sleeping chamber.
Moving the bedding around regularly prevents parasites from growing and prevents the sett from becoming too cold or damp, which would be dangerous for young cubs.
A badger will use the same sett from year after year. Setts are handed down from generation to generation.
When badger cubs are born, they are covered in grey, silky hairs. Their dark facial stripes are already visible.
The cubs' eyes remain closed for about five weeks.
For a few weeks after they are born, the cubs lie in the nest. The sow (female badger) suckles them when she returns from foraging trips.
Most sows are ready to mate again soon after their cubs are born
The dominant boar (male badger) usually stays in a part of the sett far from a sow's cubs.
She will drive him off if he attempts to approach her litter.
Some evenings, he will visit the sett's various entrances, sniffing and purring loudly.
If a sow that is in heat emerges, he will mate with her.
Sometimes, the boar will leave the sett and go to the border of his social group's territory, where he will scent-mark the boundary with droppings.
He may patrol the territory's perimeter and fight off any trespassing badgers.
At the same time, the sow will make short trips to forage for food.
Earthworms are an important food source, but the sow will take many other creatures, including very young rabbits and dead birds.