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Finding Badgers?
See our Finding Evidence of Badgers booklet

Evidence

If you are new to looking for evidence of badgers, it can seem that there is a lot of information to learn. It is only when you really start studying wildlife, that you realise there is a lot more you need to know than you thought before you started. The following article provides a basic introduction to the evidence you might come across if you are looking for badgers. However, we have provided this article (and lots more information) in a detailed booklet and presentation; which gives you are really detailed guide to finding evidence of badgers. If you want to study this subject for educational reasons; or because you are a member of a badger group; it would be worth looking at these documents in our shop:

If you are looking for evidence of badger activity, these are the most common things you should you look for:

  • Badger Setts - check the shape of the hole. Badger holes tend to be the shape of a capital 'D', with the flat side downwards, and are 25-30cms wide and typically 20cm high. Tunnels which are well used will normally have floors which become rock hard with the constant passage of the badger.
  • A fox-hole is usually much smaller, and may contain several bones at or near the entrance (badgers do not usually bring much food back to the sett).
  • You will probably notice a pungent smell from a fox-hole - especially if the fox has been near the entrance. However, a fox can often use a badger sett occasionally (even if badgers are in there too), so this is not a perfect guide.
  • Fresh muddy tracks from the sett entrances.
  • Badgers often place their back foot where their front foot was, leading to smudgy foot-prints.
  • Good foot-prints will show a prominent central pad, and either four or five toes, with good claw marks.
    Representation of a badger's footprint
  • Fresh bedding being dragged in.
    Badger dragging badding backwards into it's settBadger dragging badding backwards into it's sett
  • Old bedding being ejected.

    Badgers collect and drag bedding materials lon distances (up to 120 metres). Dry grass, bracken and straw are important for bedding materials. They will also collect leaves, green plants, pine cones, bits of plastic sheeting and even old clothes on occasion.
    They will often leave clumps of bedding at or near the sett entrance. This may be newly collected bedding materials which have not yet been used or older materials which have been taken outside to freshen up in the fresh air.
    There is some evidence that green bedding materials are used more often in the spring. In part this may be so that it decomposes underground, giving some heat for the cubs in their nests.
  • Large spoil heap outside main sett. This may contain old bedding, bits of fur, and even small bones.
  • Latrine pits near badger sett and elsewhere.

    Latrines (dung pits) can vary in size, but they are often around 15cm across and up to 15cm deep. They will slowly be filled with dung over a period, until almost full, whereupon a new one will be dug nearby.
  • The faeces may also contain evidence as to the badgers diet. Black and slimy, implies a worm-rich diet. However, there may also be evidence of cereal, grains, seeds or even insect casings.

    There will normally be a series of dung pits/latrines within 10 to 20 metres of a main sett. You may spot the holes first, but you may be aware of some additional flies or a slightly musky smell in the area. Old latrines may be covered only with loose grass or leaves, so watch where you put your feet.
  • Be aware that badgers will deposit 50% to 75% of their droppings in other areas of the territory. Accordingly, you should expect to find badger poo on territorial boundary paths or other pathways or close to the edge of a badger territory too.
  • Badgers will also use their musk and urine to mark their territory; so neighbouring clans know where the boundaries lie. You may therefore find dung which contains a yellow-brown cream or jelly substance- This may be evidence of secretions from the subcaudal gland (under the tail) or the anal glands.
  • Scratching marks on trees and rocks nearby.
  • Badgers may also use other uprights as scratching posts.
  • These sometimes including fence-posts, wooden greenhouses, barns or even garden furniture.
  • Badgers may also rip bark from rotting logs or tree trunks to get at any juicy grubs inside the bark.
  • These scratch marks will usually show a series of four or five parallel lines of deep gouges in the wood or soft stone. However, you can sometimes also see lighter parallel lines of scratches, where the badgers claws have clipped something they have hopped over (such as an old log which obstructs a pathway).
  • Regularly used badger tracks through woodland and fields.
    Badger track through a wooded area
  • These may have been used by many generations of badgers.
  • Check for evidence when the path crosses a boundary; as there may be badger hair on barbed-wire fences or rough wooden slats or uprights. There may also be evidence of footprints near the boundary.
  • These pathways may be so well used, that they form a depression in the soil; and form depressions through hedgerows that can be seen easily from the road.
  • It is also commonly believed that the exact route of these paths is exceptionally well known by badgers. There has been much circumstantial evidence that badgers appear to follow precisely the same path across a field, even when that field has been ploughed deeply several times, leaving no visible trace of an actual path.
  • Badger footprints on muddy tracks (when walking a badger will often place its back foot where its front foot has been, meaning that prints can be unclear or smudged).
  • A badgers front foot usually has longer claws than its back foot.

  • Badger footprints
  • A well used badger path will tend to become muddy due to constant use by badgers; although any prints on the path may become smudged by other animals who use the path later (such as deer, dogs, foxes, etc).
  • Snuffle holes where badgers go after worms - specially noticeable on lawns and golf-courses, these may be round or oval shaped, and a few centimetres deep.
  • Other ground disturbance where badgers have dug for roots, bulbs and tubers.
  • Wasps nests torn up out of the ground (badgers usually dig down through the top, rather than going in through the front; as this tends to avoid the risk of their nose getting stung!).
  • Badger hair on barbed wire and other wire fences, or under fences.
  • In cold still winter days, steam rising from active badger setts.
  • If you have come across a skull and are wondering if it is that of a badger, check it against the ones shown on the following web page Badger Skulls.
  • If you have seen some poo and wonder what animal left it, then have a look at poo descriptions on the following web site: Description of Animal Droppings

Idea

  • If you have an animal coming through a gap, narrow the gap a little with firm sticks and double-sided sticky tape. With luck this should catch some hair - helping you to identify the animal.
  • Black and white (with some grey) hairs up to 12cm long are probably badgers. These may be stained with the colour of the local earth (especially at the ends). Badger hairs feel rough, and "square" when rolled between the finger-tips.
  • Hairs which are wholly red or brown are probably foxes or another animal.

Ask Us

  • If you suspect a badger is visiting, email the details to us (use our Ask An Expert service), and we will give our opinion as to whether we think it is a badger, and what other signs you might look for.
  • If you let us know the nearest large town, we will let you know where your nearest Badger Group is too. They would always be glad to know of any new badger sett, and they might be able to help you and the badgers out. They should also be able to help protect the badgers, and the green spaces they need to live