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Hand Rearing Badgers
Mammal Husbandry and Management Techniques

Caution - Badgers!
Get expert help before you deal with an injured badger! Ideally, find some-one who has been trained to handle a badger.
Approach every badger with extreme care - even one which is apparently comatose may move suddenly! If the badger appears unconscious, use a stout stick and carefully prod the sensitive areas near the eyes and mouth, to check that it really is unconscious. Stay out of reach of its teeth or claws and remember that badgers may inflict severe bites! Keep stout stick between you and the badgers mouth, so it can bite the stick before it can bite you. NEVER pick up a badger by the tail. If the badger struggles, it will be able to bite or scratch you anyway; and you may end up dislocating its tail too.
Caution - Veterinary Advice!
These notes are provided ONLY as a rough and ready guide to students who are learning about veterinary practice, wild animals and badgers.
This information on this page is intended ONLY as an approximate guide to what may happen in one particular circumstance.
It does not constitute advice for Veterinary Practices.
Badgerland are not qualified in the field of veterinary medicine.
Reference must always be made to the BSAVA manual of Wildlife Casualty Care for up-to-date advice.
Some of the following information has been extracted from:
Other sources have also been used.


Initial Care:

General mammal information:

  • On arrival any young animal should be weighed, warmed, stimulated to urinate/defecate and given subcutaneous fluids to counteract dehydration.
  • The age should be determined if possible.
  • The first feed given should be an oral rehydration solution (e.g. Lectade), with a gradual changeover to a milk substitute over several feeds.

General Care (including warmth and hygiene):

General mammal information:

  • Maintain small mammals initially at 32C, then 28C, later 23C; initially at 95F for a hairless baby, 90F for a haired infant with the eyes still closed, and reduce by 5F per week once the eyes are open.
  • Young mammals have poor ability to maintain body temperature and are prone to hypothermia, hyperthermia and burns, particularly when unfurred.
  • Keep out of draughts but ensure ventilation is adequate.
  • Provide a temperature range, e.g. by heating one end of the container more than the other, which, while not allowing either overheating or chilling, permits the animal to chose the position at which it feels most comfortable.
  • The container used should be sufficiently large to allow the occupant to move into a comfortable position.
  • The sides of the container should be sufficiently high to prevent the occupant falling out.
  • Bedding materials should be soft, comfortable and either disposable or easily washed. They should keep the animal dry and be changed as frequently as necessary to prevent soiling.
  • Badger specific information:
    • Hot water bottle wrapped in soft towel may be preferable to an infra red lamp.
    • Solitary cub requires human contact (from single human) until August, but this necessity should be avoided if possible.
    • Two or more cubs together are better and permit minimised human contact.
    • Avoid contact with extra people.
    • Discontinue all human contact after August.
    • Hygiene is essential; all feeding equipment should be sterilised between feeds.

Milk replacer:

Avoid changing between milks: keep to one formula once started.

  • Complan: one part powder to three parts warm water.
  • Vitafood: one part powder to three parts warm water.
  • Reduce strength of mixture if diarrhoea occurs.
  • Add sugar as laxative if cub constipated.
  • Esbilac or goat's milk.
  • Esbilac, with Abidec supplementation.
  • Esbilac, KMR or Lamlac (Volac) may be suitable.
  • Lactol.
  • Cow's milk diluted to 50% with water has been used.
  • Lactol, Complan, Ostermilk, Vitafood, lamb milk replacer, piglet milk replacer, puppy or kitten milk replacer have all been used.
  • Lactol, ewe's milk replacer or sow's milk replacer.
  • Supplements used: multivitamin drops, mineral supplements, e.g. Abidec, Vionate, calcium gluconate, cod liver oil.


  • Catac feeding bottle.
  • Esbilac Puppy Bottle (Pet Ag).

Feeding Frequency:

  • General mammal information:
    • Varies depending on species and age.
    • In general, every 2-3 hours during the day and longer intervals at night.
    • More frequent feeding (e.g. every hour) may be required for very small species, particularly for neonates.
  • Four to five feeds daily.
  • Every three to four hours.
  • Every three hours 6am to midnight.
  • Every four hours.

Feeding Technique:

  • General mammal information: Encouraging feeding:
    • Very small animals - place drop of milk on lips, preferably with animal held upright.
    • Larger animals - insert teat in mouth, directed towards roof of mouth, and massage throat gently to encourage swallowing.
  • Badger specific information:
    • May be difficult to get feeding initially, as a hungry cub may latch onto a teat, clenches its jaws, hunch its shoulders not suck.
    • Time and patience required to start suckling initially.
    • Wait for cub to relax if clenches onto teat.
    • Toileting may act as a stimulation for suckling.
    • Keep to a routine.


  • General mammal information: Energy intake (kilocalories per day) = 200-250 x weight(kg) 0.83.
  • General carnivore information: may be fed up to 35-40% of body weight per day, and about 25-50ml/kg per feed.


  • General mammal information: most infant mammals require gentle stimulation of the ano-genital area (using e.g. a damp cotton bud, damp cotton wool or damp soft paper towel) in order to urinate and defecate. This should be done when the animal is first presented and at every feed until voluntary elimination is observed.
  • Badger specific information:
    • Usually required, before each feed.
    • Gently massage ano-genital area with warm damp cotton wool or cloth.
    • N.B. Winding/Burping may be required - rub back gently.


  • General mammal information: weigh daily.
  • Badger specific information:
    • Same time each day or every other day, before feeding.
    • Monitoring is is essential as a key to whether or not the cub is progressing satisfactorily.


  • Start when permanent incisors appear, providing e.g. finely chopped meat, rusks, tinned dog food, dried complete dog foods.
  • Start at 8-9 weeks, giving Milupa baby food and scrambled egg.
  • At 10-12 weeks, minced meat and puppy food mixed with milk may be offered, while the number of feeds is reduced.
  • 12-13 weeks: puppy food, minced meat, chopped chicks, biscuit. Bottle feed only twice daily then gradually stop altogether.
  • Dog food initially, then mice or chicks. Take to about 10-12 weeks to wean.
  • Wean at 10-14 weeks, using tinned cat or dog food, chicken mince, bread and gravy.
  • Start at 8-10 weeks with baby foods, scrambled eggs. Add minced meat and dead chicks after about a week.
    • Usually weaned by about three months.
    • Expect individual variation in progress to weaning.


  • Preferably rear in area suitable for release.
  • Move to outdoor enclosure or outbuilding by May/June (when large enough).
  • Minimise human contact from this time (one person only, no playing or handling).
  • From June, take for walks (will follow foster mother) in evening around local fields, allowing to learn area and start foraging.
  • Initially keep locked in at night.
  • By late summer allow to wander at night: provide safe retreat - teach to use badger gate at 60cm above ground in fence, with plank leading to gate from either side (wild badger is unlikely to follow).
  • Should be mainly self-sufficient for feeding by end of summer.
  • Likely to leave pen by late winter or spring i.e. about one year old.
  • Consult with landowner, relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Agency and DEFRA prior to release.


  • Rear group of four to six, mixed sexes, in large outdoor pen.
  • Late summer, transfer to release pen with suitable sett.
  • N.B. must be suitable site, away from established groups but with appropriate habitat.
  • Continue feeding.
  • Remove fence in late autumn, continue feeding but gradually reduce food.

Appropriate Use:

  • Wild animals should not be taken for hand-rearing unless they are definitely orphaned, abandoned or injured, or in immediate danger.
  • Young cubs found in daylight outside a set are almost certainly orphaned.
  • Preferably rear in area suitable for release.
  • Gradual introduction to release site is important.


  • Orphaned cubs are often very hungry when they finally emerge from the sett.
  • Important to rear at least two cubs together for development of social behaviour.
  • Vaccinate against parvovirus, leptospirosis, distemper - killed vaccines.
  • Consult with experts including relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Agency or DEFRA before translocation or release.
  • Lost hair due to milk grows back.
  • An ordinary outdoor thermometer may be used to indicate the temperature in the container.
  • Routine records should be maintained of daily weight, times of each feed, quantities of milk consumed, urine/faeces production and general condition/demeanour. Such records provide an objective means of assessing progress and provide useful data for improving rearing methods.

Complications/ Limitations / Risk:

  • Easy to tame: important to minimise human contact.
  • Rear with other badger cubs: avoid rearing one cub alone.
  • Refusal to feed once sucking well indicates problem such as inhalation pneumonia.
  • Hair loss and red peeling skin may occur if cow's or goat's milk used - presumed allergy.
  • Common problems encountered include nutritional diarrhoea - often associated with cow's milk, constipation , enteritis, pneumonia - may be inhalational, hair loss - this has been associated with use of cow's milk and goat's milk.
  • Changing milk replacer during rearing is likely to cause dietary problems.
  • Rearing at one site then moving to another site just before release is NOT recommended.
  • Cubs may start being aggressive and biting by May/June, particularly males, as in wild would start to establish place in social group.
  • Risk of transfer of disease from area or origin to area of release.
  • Test for bovine tuberculosis prior to release: N.B. no reliable skin or serum test for badgers.
  • Have general health check by veterinary surgeon prior to move to release pen.
  • Lactating bitches have been used as foster mothers, but this involves a risk of imprinting and over-familiarisation with dogs, which could be lethal following release.

Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers:

  • Catac Feeding bottle: pet stores.
  • Goat's milk: health food stores, supermarkets.
  • Esbilac (Pet Ag, Illinois, USA) pet stores.
  • Suitable pen.
  • Artificial sett prior to release: may need to be constructed.

Expertise level / Ease of Use:

  • It is strongly recommended that juveniles of this species are transferred to expert individuals or organisations as rearing and successful release requires considerable expertise, specialised pre-release accommodation and may involve training of the animal.
  • While rearing by inexperienced persons may result in a physically healthy juvenile, the chance of survival after release may be seriously reduced if expert techniques have not been correctly applied.

Cost/ Availability:

  • Considerable investment in time is required for proper rearing and release.
  • The overall investment in supplies may be significant.
  • The cost of constructing suitable pre-release accommodation may be considerable.

Legal and Ethical Considerations:

  • Hand-rearing should not be started unless the carer is prepared to give the time and effort required for rearing to release, or to ensure that appropriate care will be continued through to release.
  • Consider whether hand-rearing is the best option for the individual compared with leaving it in the wild.
  • Consider whether euthanasia is a more humane/kinder option for the individual than attempting hand-rearing.
  • Release of hand-reared animals: An offence may be committed under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960 section 1 if a released animal does not have a reasonable chance of survival (i.e. a chance similar to its non-rehabilitated peers). It is an offence under this Act for a person having control or charge of an animal to abandon it permanently or otherwise in circumstances likely to cause unnecessary suffering. This may include release at an unsuitable site, in the wrong territory, unfit, not having learned to hunt, at the wrong time of year etc.
  • No licence is required for translocation or release.
  • Care in selecting a site is important to minimise the risk of conflict with established groups of badgers.
  • Prior consultation with the relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Agency and DEFRA before translocation or release is recommended.
  • Permission should be sought from the landowner prior to release.
  • There is a risk of translocation of disease between areas of the country; this may be minimised by ensuring all cubs are health-checked, vaccinated against parvovirus, leptospirosis and distemper and TB (tuberculosis) tested.
  • It is particularly important to take precautions to avoid introducing TB into an area in which the disease is not already present in badgers.
  • Badgers are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. Under this act it is an offence to take badgers from the wild, although there is an exception in the case of taking a disabled individual for the purpose of tending it. However, it is illegal to disturb a badger sett and no provision is made under this act for disturbing a sett in order to rescueorphaned cubs.


Debra Bourne

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