Q Where are badgers found?
A Badgers are widespread, but are most common in the south-west, rare in East Anglia and sparse in Scotland. They live in social groups of 4-12 adults based around a main sett, often with subsidiary setts used at different times, with feeding areas which may be some distance away and used seasonally. Usually only one female in the group breeds, producing two or three cubs.
Caption: Badgers are usually nocturnal and very shy
Q What do they eat?
A Badgers are omnivorous, eating a wide range of animal and vegetable foods. Their most important food is the earthworm, but they also eat bulbs (though not bluebells) and small mammals including young rabbits. In upland areas they eat carrion. Fruit, especially blackberries and windfall apples, are important foods in autumn.
Q Why are they attracted to gardens?
A Badgers roam far and wide in search of food and will return to areas where it is plentiful. Badgers are not likely to live in gardens.
Q How do I know if they visit my garden?
A Adult badgers are about 75cm long, with a short tail, a black-and-white-striped face and grey body. However, you are more likely to see signs of their presence than the badgers themselves as they are very shy and almost entirely nocturnal. Look along the boundaries for well-worn trails, or for long, black-and-white hairs caught on fences.
Q What damage do they do in the garden?
A Badgers dig holes to catch earthworms and grubs and both are partial to fruit. They will also dig for tap roots and tubers including carrots and potatoes, and are fond of sweetcorn. If their sett is nearby, they may strip foliage for bedding.
Q How can I deter badgers?
A If badgers have only recently started using your garden, try to make it less attractive to them. Block entrance holes to the garden; remove temptations such as food put out for pets or other wildlife; and avoid animal-product fertilisers such as bonemeal.
Q What if they are regular visitors?
A It’s worth experimenting with repellents as they can be effective. For best results treat the areas where the animals enter the garden. Repeat if necessary after 10 days.
Q What about fencing?
A Badgers are strong diggers so will simply tunnel under most forms of fence. However, electric fencing has proved effective round vegetable plots. You need to use two strands of wire placed 7.5cm and 20cm above the ground. The fence must be kept entirely free of vegetation, which would earth it, and be checked regularly. Electric fencing is available from agricultural suppliers. For more advice on installation and use, contact the RSPCA.
Q Do visiting badgers cause any health risks?
A A few badgers carry bovine tuberculosis, but there has never been a recorded case of them passing it on to humans.
Q Do badgers have any legal protection?
A Badgers are protected by The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and other legislation, making it illegal to harm them or their setts except under very specific circumstances when a licence may be issued.
Q How can I find out more about badgers?
A Your local county Wildlife Trust can usually give advice and information, or you could contact one of the organisations listed:
Badger Trust PO Box 708 East Grinstead RH19 2WN 0845 828 7878 badgertrust.org.uk
The Mammal Society 3 The Camrronades New Road Southampton SO14 0AA 023 8023 7874 mammal.org.uk
RSPCA Wilberforce Way Southwater Horsham West Sussex RH13 9RS 0300 123 4555 rspca.org.uk RSPCA emergency number for wildlife casualties 0300 123 4999