About how badgers live their lives across the UK
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"(The badger) moves noisily, nothing quiet or stealthy about him. He ambles on like a miniature tank, snorting and wheezing, bashing his way through any bushes or undergrowth in his path."
Ernest Dudley


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Badgers are widespread in Britain but are most common in the south west, rare in East Anglia and only thinly distributed in Scotland.

It is estimated that there are between 40,000 and 50,000 social groups of badgers in Britain, made up of 250,000 to 400,000 adults which produce around 170,000 cubs a year. There is considerable variation in the size of social groups, so these figures can only be estimates. Claims made by some people that the UK countryside is swarming or riddled with millions of badgers are utterly false - this has no basis in fact.

An illustration as to how badgers are distributed across the UK is shown here in the map from the Mammal Society from 2007). This shows that badgers are common in the south-west, and regularly sighted in most of England and much of Scotland. Badgers are scarce in the high Pennines mountain range; and (at least in 2007) absent from the Scottish Grampians and most of the Highlands and Islands. Note that this ia a highly simplified view; as there are parts of the "absent" areas where badger have been present for generation. It seems likely that badgers have made modest population increases in many parts of the UK since 2007.

Mammal Society badger distribution map from 2007
Badger Distribution Map from the Mammal Society from 2007

An illustration as to how badgers are distributed in very flat areas is shown here in the map from the Norfolk Wildlife Services (part of Norfolk Wildlife Trust). This shows that there are some areas with high badger densities, but there are others which have few or no badger records.

Badger distribution map for Norfolk (in 2015)

Badger mortality is high, with perhaps half of all badgers dying each year. Road traffic accidents with Motor Vehicles are a major cause of death. It does not matter how long a badger clan has lived near a busy road, but they never seem to develop any road sense; and never seem to see vehicles as a concern until it is too late. The maximum life expectancy of a badger is about 14 years, though very few survive so long in the wild.


Deciduous woods, copses and hedgerows are the most usual locations for setts - especially if this is near open cultivated land.

An example of potentially good badger habitat is shown in the photo. Key parts are the grassland for foraging, the nearby woodland for shelter and the sloping land for digging a sett into. Periodically cattle are grazed on these fields; their dung addining to the soil and encouraging earthworms (these being a vital food resource for badgers).

Elderberry trees are often associated with badger setts and rabbit warrens, so look for patches of these trees. Elders will grow near badger setts and rabbit warrens because badgers and rabbit eat the berries and pass the seeds unharmed through their guts before depositing them in the droppings nearby. Here the seeds will germinate and eventually become bushes or trees; thereby repeating the cycle.

Elder trees are less than 15 metres in height. The trunk is usually short with a grey-brown cork-like bark. In the spring the flowers are small and creamy-white and arranged in a large flat umbrel, up to 30cm across. After pollination, the flowers turn into small purple-black berries, as shown in the photo. The twigs of the elder tree are hollow in the middle, containing a white spongy tissue (pith). 

A well-established Sett is unmistakable. It will normally have anything from 3 to 10 entrances, and a few have been found with more than 50.

These entrances and exits are at least 25 cm wide - much larger than rabbit holes.

Outside each entrance is a large pile of earth which includes dried plant material such as grass, hay or straw. This is old bedding which has been discarded.

You will usually see a latrine close to an entrance too.

Look out for signs near the sett that the badgers have been foraging: you may see dead leaves disturbed where they have been rooting.

A badger collects bedding material (such as hay, straw and leaves), rolls it into a bundle and drags it backwards into the sett.

The Fate of the Badger
Dr Richard Meyer objectively examines the evidence on which the badger-killing programme has been based.Click here to buy:
Fate of The Badger