Badgers are medium-sized carnivorous that are so named because early inhabitants of Britain were reminded of badges or heraldry by the animals white facial markings. They are a member of the weasel family along with wolverines, minks, martens and skunks. There are six species of badger found in Eurasia, Africa and North America. They are believed to have evolved from a martenlike creature that originated in Southeast Asia 40 million years ago. European badgers have a longer snout and are more social than their American counterparts, which generally avoid each except during the midsummer when males seek out mates.[Source: Bil Gilbert, Smithsonian]

Badgers are stout, muscular and have sharp teeth and claws and have been described as one the strongest mammals, pound for pound. Over their muscular bodies is thick fur and loose skin. This makes them hard to kill. Badgers move with a distinctive ambling, bowlegged gait with their front legs turned inward. They can't climb trees but they can swim and run fast if need be. A male badger is a boar, a female is a sow, and a young badger is a cub. A collective name suggested for a group of badgers is a cete, but badger colonies are more often called clans. A badger's home is called a sett.

Badgers have jaws that are hinged in such a way that when they grip something it is difficult for them to let go. They have keen senses of smell and hearing but have poor eyesight. Badgers are excellent diggers. The have a transparent inner eyelid, like some bird species, that allows them to see while they dig. Their webbed forepaws and large claws allow them to scoop up dirt as if their legs were shovels.

Badger Behavior

Badgers are nocturnal. They spend their days in their burrows. They eat both plants and animals and seem to have a special fondness for earthworms. Badgers are generally slow moving. Some are solitary. Others are more social, building interlocking systems of dens. European badger often live together in communities with animals of both sexes and different ages that are made of burrows connected to one another by tunnels.

Badgers mark their territories with extremely smelly droppings. European badgers hunt individually but gather together to collectively protect their territory. They enjoy grooming and playing with one another.

Badgers make their dens in holes that are about the size of a large watermelon split open lengthwise. Sets of badger tunnels and burrows have been occupied by different generations of the same family for centuries. One complex of tunnels in the Mendip Hills of Somerset has been continually occupied for 60,000 years.

Badgers don't hibernate. They will sometimes plug their holes and sleep through a couple of days of bad weather but eventually they emerge. During the winter they survive by digging up animals that are really hibernating.

Badger Feeding and Breeding Behavior

Badger mating is usually brief and violent. When it is finished the two animals go their separate ways. The embryo doesn't begin developing until a winter (a phenomena called delayed implementation that is common in the weasel family). Males tend to take care of themselves while females tend to forage for themselves and their cubs.

Badger young—usually two or three per litter—are born in the spring. The period of maternal care is very short—a few weeks of nursing, a brief period when the mother brings food back to the den and a month or so when the young badger cubs forage and hunt with their mother. After that— about three months after they are born— they are on their own.

Badgers are omnivores that eat nuts, fruits, insects, honey, leaves, acorns, other items from the forest and meat. Protein sources include mice, hares, frogs, fish, ground-nesting birds, bird eggs, moles, shrews, fox cubs, rats, ground squirrels, cats, chicken, anything the can lay their claws on. The usually eat fresh meat, but have been observed eating carrion. They also consume large quantities of insects, including wasps, ants, bee larvae, beetles, earthworms and grasshoppers. To stay healthy , badger has to consume the equivalent of a squirrel a day. Earthworms are a major food source for European badgers.

Angry, Hissing Badgers

Badgers are ferocious animals that can easily tear part any dog. They are normally quite docile, but fight fiercely when cornered. Dachshunds (German for "badger hound") were bred to catch badgers. Their slender hot-dog shape allows them to go down badger holes. Even so, its hard to imagine a dachshund being a match for a badger. Badgers have been observed killing Dobermans by ripping them to shreds. Bill Gilbert wrote in Smithsonian magazine: "Of the five dogs I know about that have tackled badgers, four were badly lacerated and the fifth...was killed."

When alarmed away from its burrow, a badger will try avoid being seen by lying flat and pulling its legs under its body. If it thinks it has been seen, it will quickly try to dig a burrow, sending dirt flying high in the air. If it is approached before it hides in it will turn to fight, hissing and snarling. When angered badgers inflate their loose skin like a puffer fish so they look larger than they actually are. When they are only moderately angrily they hiss and growl softly.

Describing an angry badger that had been flushed out its den with water from a hose, Gilbert wrote in Smithsonian magazine: "it began to snarl hiss and gnash its teeth. I cannot describe the racket it made, but since then I have heard buffalo bellow, a lion roar and grizzly growl. No other animal I know sound quite so ferocious as an outraged badger."

Few animals will mess with a badger. If it is attacked by a bite to throat or neck, as most carnivores try to kill their victims, a badger can stretch out the skin on its neck and take the bite of its attacker relatively harmlessly in its forequarters. Occasionally eagles, ravens and dogs take badger cubs.

Badgers and Humans

Methods of catching badgers generally involve different ways of trying to flush them from their burrows. These include smoking them out, pulling them out, digging them out, pulling them out with a social pair of tongs, and using trained dogs to pull them out. Badgers have traditionally been hunted by smoking or digging them out of their dens. Special tongs were developed to pull them and dogs such as dachshunds were trained to enter the dens and pull them out.

Badger fur used to sometimes be used to make women's coats and painting and shaving brushes. They are rarely hunted anymore and are considered endangered in many places. In Russia, the consumption of badger meat is still common. Shish kebabs made from badger, along with dog meat and pork, have been sources of trichinosis outbreaks in the Altai region of Russia.. The word badger means to tease or annoy.

Badger-baiting was formerly a popular blood sport in Britain. Describing a badger baiting contest, Charles A. Long wrote in “The Badgers of the World”: "The captive badger is held within the confines of a restricted space and is then subjected to repeated attacks of specially bred dogs, one at a time...To give an advantage to the dog, the badger is handicapped in the first instance by being secured by a chain...Should this prove ineffectual in preventing the dogs getting mauled...the leg, or legs. of the badger may be broken...The lower jaw of the badger may also be shattered...or sawed off." All badger baiting is illegal today, but there are reports that dog-badger fights are still staged.

One of the main charters in Kenneth Grahams's “Wind in the Willows” was Mr. Badger. In one passage, Mole asks Mr. Badger what happened to the original builders of his tunnels. "'Who can tell?' said the Badger. 'People come—they stay for a while, they flourish, they build—and they go. It is their way. But we remain. There were badgers here, I've been told, before that same city ever came to be. And now there are badgers here again. We are an enduring lot, and we move out for a time, but we wait, and are patient, and back we come. And so it will ever be.'"

In the 1990s, there were 80,000 badgers in Great Britain. But their numbers are shrinking. At that a number were dying as a result of cattle tuberculosis they originally got from cattle.


Wolverines are the largest terrestrial members of the weasel family (sea otters are larger but are regarded as sea animals). Resembling a cross between a bear and badger, they can weigh up to 20 kilograms (45 pounds) and are found primarily in the boreal forests of Russia, Scandinavia, Canada and Alaska. [Source: Tom O'Neil, National Geographic, June, 2002]

Because wolverines live in remote areas and are very shy and elusive, relatively little is known about them. Wolverines have thick reddish brown fur which keeps them warm in the winter. They have keen senses of smell which helps them find prey and avoid predators. They often rear back on their hind legs to sniff the air for clues about what animals are in the vicinity.

Wolverines have skillet-size paws with curved claws that ideal for both digging and climbing trees. Their paws splay out and allow them to move quickly n the surface of snow as if they were wearing snowshoes,

Wolverines were once found as far south as the Black Sea and California. They are now largely relegated to northern areas far from human development. Wolverines are sometimes killed by the dogs, bear, moose and wolf and sable hunters. Wolverine number are unknown. They are sensitive, vulnerable creatures with a low birthrate. The most stable populations are in Russia, western Canada and Alaska.

Wolverine Feeding Behavior

Wolverines don't hibernate. They are very good at climbing trees. They often scale tall pines to survey the landscape for prey, escape from predators and hide food. Wolverines are shy and secretive but they enjoy playing around. They flee when ever they sense people are near. Wolverines have huge territories, as large as 200 square miles. They usually sleep and seek refuge from wolves, bears and severe storms in rock shelters or under boulders,

A female generally gives birth to two kits, who grow fast and spend about eight months with their mother before setting off on their own, The mother takes the kits on hunts and teaches them what she knows. She often favors one kit over the other.

Wolverines feed primarily on carrion. They also eat rodents, fish, reptiles and birds. Sometimes they bury meat and eat it later, They seldom attack anything bigger than themselves. Stories about them leaping from trees to kill reindeer and following trappers to their huts are regarded as tall tales. During the winter wolverine often feed on animals that have died in the cold. There powerful jaws enable them to slash through frozen meat and bone.

In some places wolverines feed primarily on the carrion left behind from wolf kills. If they stumble across a reindeer or moose carcass they often have to eat fast and take some meat to hide before a bear arrives on the scene. Occasionally wolverines will chase down reindeer. They prefer domesticated one to wild ones because the domesticated are not very food at running in the snow and the wild ones are too skittish, alert and fast.


Otters are expert swimmers and one of the few animals that can catch fish underwater. They are also famous for their playfulness. There are two kinds of otters — land otters and sea otters. Land otters of various kinds are found in small numbers, scattered around the globe, in lakes, streams and swamps. Sea otters are found in north Pacific along the coast of California, British Columbia, Alaska and eastern Russia.

Otters and weasels are closely related. Both are carnivorous and members of the mustelid family of animals along with badgers, minks and ferrets. River otters found in North America are muscular and can weigh up to 14 kilograms. Equipped with sharp canines and claws, they have large home territories and may travel kilometers along a river for food and shelter. The Eurasian otter has a head and body length of 60 to 80 centimeters, with a 30 to 45 centimeter tail, and weighs 6 to 12 kilograms. It is elusive, largely nocturnal and often lives in inaccessible places. It is rarely seen. The Asian small-clawed otter is found in rivers and marshland in India, southern China and Southeast Asia. The smallest otter, they live in family units and east small aquatic creatures such as crabs and fish. Adults are 40 to 60 centimeters in length and weigh between three and five kilograms. Babies weigh 500 grams at birth. In China and Bangladesh domesticated otters are used to catch fish. They come when called and are playful creatures. The Eurasian otter is found in and around rivers, lakes, marshes and seacoast in Europe, Asia and North Africa.

Otters have disappeared from many palaces they were once plentiful. They have been hurt by hunting, deforestation and erosion, draining of swamps. water pollution and competition from other animals. The surviving number of Eurasian otters is unknown. They are largely gone from many countries but are making a comeback in some places. Their decline is attributed to habitat loss, pollution, depletion of fish and other food sources. DDT is blamed on the disappearance of otters from some parts of Europe.

Otter Characteristics

Weighing around 20 to 25 pounds, land otters have stream-lined body that reached lengths of 4½ feet, including their powerful, tapered twp-foot-long tail. The have short legs with webbed feet and a small head with a cute whiskered face. Their fur is dark-brown, glossy and thick and features ling, silky guard hairs.

David Attenborough wrote: “Otters, anatomically, are very like large weasels. Their sharp spiky canine teeth and shearing carnassials that served them so well on land are equally well suited to dealing with slippery fish. They have dealt with he problems of chilling.".by developing a very fine fur. Its outer layer is relatively coarse, being made of long guard hairs. Beneath that, however, the fur is thick and so wooly that it traos air and forms very effective insulation indeed.

“Swimmer, needless to say, use their limbs in a very different way from runners. The otters have converted their feet into paddles simply by growing webs f skin between their toes. They have also developed strng muscles at the base of the tail so that they are able too use it like a rudder. The need to breath air, however, is still a majoor problem for them and they usually have to snatch a breath every half minute or so when they are in the water. Nevertheless, the are much skilled swimmers, so athletic and so bursting with energy, that even with this handicap, they can pursue and out-swim fish."

Although they have these very effective adaptions, most species of otter spend most of their lives oout of water. During the day they are usually asleep in their dens beside a river bank. Even at night, when they do much of their fishing, they tend to rest on he bank for a few hours around midnight, Nor have they lost their skills or tatse for hunting." In Scotland they hunt rabbits and mark land territories with droppings on particularly rocks. They also sometimes hunt in the sea.

Otters are wide ranging animals. They sometimes venture up to 50 miles from their den in search of food or a mate. They do no hibernate. Otters are one of the few animals that seems to get a lot of joy out of playing as an adult. Its favorite activity seems to be sliding down muddy river banks.

Otter Behavior

Otters generally feed on fish and other water creatures such as frogs. Sometime they also eat land creatures such as snakes and mice. Otters prefer to build their dens in river banks. Many dens have their entrance in the water and 25 to 30 foot tunnel that slants upwards to a place above the water level. Sometimes there is also a land exit.

The mother Eurasian otter raised one to three cubs alone. The cubs remain with their mother for about a year. She teaches them fishing skills and provides other tips for survival. Otter generally only mate once a year, in the early spring. The young are raised inside a nest or burrow.

A study published in British Wildlife in September reported disturbing evidence of cannibalism and infanticide. Post-mortem examinations on 200 otters between 1998 and 2000 showed that 33 of them — almost 17 per cent — had bite wounds inflicted by other otters. These were the result not just of fights between rival territorial males, but also involved cannibalism and even suspected infanticide, according to the Vic Simpson, a veterinary pathologist, and Karen Coxon, a fellow scientist. They found that many of the otters had wounds on face, feet, anus and genitals. Eight of the animals had died directly as a result of the bites. The stomach of one dog otter contained the remains of a four-week old cub.

Mr Simpson said yesterday: "We do not know whether these injuries are symptomatic of new and worrying behaviour or just that our population levels have recovered enough for them to become apparent again. But there is no reported evidence of this sort of behaviour happening elsewhere, such as Germany, where the species is also doing well. "What is new is that there is now clear evidence that aggressive behaviour does not just involve males fighting for territories - females are being badly bitten and dying too. It even applies to cubs." One theory is that a Vitamin A deficiency, caused by ingesting pollutants, has caused increased aggression. Mr Simpson, however, was sceptical and suggested that the aggressive behaviour could be linked to the gradual recovery of the otter population in Britain prompting fierce competition for territory.

Otters Attacks

In August 2012, Jon Collins of Minnesota Public Radio reported: “Another Minnesota woman was attacked by an otter while swimming. It was the second attack in a month. An animal expert said the attacks could be due to pressures on otter habitats caused by development. A St. Michael woman was attacked and bit 18 times last weekend while swimming in a lake near Aitkin. In mid-July, a woman was also bit more than two dozen times while swimming in a lake near Duluth. [Source: Jon Collins, Minnesota Public Radio, August 3, 2012]

George Parsons, director of fishes at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, said otters sometimes use their very sharp canine teeth to defend their dens or young. "The number of bites per victim is a little bit astounding to me," Parsons said on MPR's All Things Considered on Friday. "Usually they'll bite three or four times and then kind of give up."

“Parsons said otter habitats are being threatened by development, which just increases the chance that otters and people will come into contact. But given a choice, otters will generally avoid interacting with humans. Parsons recommends swimmers avoid areas where they build dens, marshlands or places with fallen trees. "Be as loud and boisterous as possible and usually that will chase otters away," Parsons said. "Especially if you see otters with pups and young, just try to stay clear of that, even on land." Parsons said otters could also be more active this year due to the heat.

Otter Attacks Injures Boy and Grandmother in Washington State

In July 2014, a boy and his grandmother were taken to a hospital with serious injuries after a river otter attacked them near Lake Connor Park in Lake Stevens near Everett, Washington. Kari Bray wrote in the Herald of Everett, “The boy was swimming in the Pilchuck River with his grandmother around 11 a.m. when the otter attacked, said Capt. Alan Myers with the state Department of Fish & Wildlife. When the grandmother attempted to fend off the otter, the animal attacked her, as well.Based on initial reports, the boy likely needs stitches and his grandmother has a severe eye injury, Myers said. [Source: Kari Bray, Herald of Everett Washington, July 31, 2014]

A trapper was unable to locate a den in the area where the attack happened.If caught, the otter may be euthanized or relocated, Myers said. Officials are waiting to hear from doctors about whether a rabies test is needed. Ruth Milner, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Fish & Wildlife, said this is the first time she’s dealt with an otter attack in Snohomish or Island counties. However, she’s heard of them elsewhere in the state and country.“Otter attacks are uncommon, but they have happened,” Milner said. “They’re not normally perceived as dangerous animals, but any animal can be aggressive in the wrong circumstances.”River otters are not particularly common in the area, Milner said. The state does not have detailed population information.

“I can’t begin to go into the mind of this animal and tell you why it did what it did,” she said. “It could have felt threatened by the human activity in the area. Normally otters are fairly calm around people. They hang around boat docks and that sort of thing.”She said her best advice for people around any wild animal is to back away slowly. Never attempt to approach or touch the creature.“Animals have a fear mechanism and when it’s triggered they can become unpredictable,” Milner said.The Department of Fish & Wildlife recommends observing river otters from a distance, preferably a bridge or pier above a known eating area. People should not attempt to interact with an otter, and mother otters can be especially aggressive, according to the state.Milner said it is unclear if the otter involved in the attack was a mother. With no den nearby, she said it’s possible, but unlikely.Signs are being posted around Lake Connor Park and along the river where the attack happened, Myers said.


There are many species of porcupine living across Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. The Asiatic brush tailed porcupine lives throughout China, Eastern and Southeast Asia. This porcupine has a long tail with a brush of quills at the end; like the quills on its body this tail is used for protection. The East Asian porcupine eats vegetation as do other porcupines; sometimes it also eats small bugs. East Asian porcupines live in forests and mountains; they are highly adaptable.

The porcupines found in Asia are similar to porcupines found in North America. Weighing up to 18 kilograms, it is has a crest of long wiry bristles on its head and quills that cover the body and tail. The quills can be erected when threatened and they can cause painful, festering wounds. Widely distributed but rarely seen, these nocturnal animal feeds on bulbs, fruit and roots and occasionally raid crops. They strip bark and twigs off trees. Females give birth to two young.

Describing the defenses of a large African species, David Attenborough wrote: “If anything interferes with it—whether a predator or merely inquisitive human being—it will issue a series of warnings. If it feels threatened it erects its quills into a huge halo that doubles its apparent size and makes it look very fearsome indeed. Then it shakes a group of specialized hollow quills in the end of its tail, which makes an ominous rattling noise. Finally, as an indication that it is getting very angry, it stamps its hind feet, If all this is not enough to deter a stranger, then the porcupine will suddenly spin around and rush backwards with such speed that its attackers may be seriously stabbed. Same of its quills are only loosely attached and may stay in the wounds they make. It is not uncommon to see young lions with porcupine quills in their muzzles. They are unlikely to attack the porcupine again.

Porcupines are very sexually active. They mate every day whether the female is breeding or not. When they mate the females brings here spines close to her body so the male is not impaled. Attenborough wrote: “They approach cautiously and begin to groom one another around the head where their hair, though course, is not spiny. This behavior continues as they circle one another and call. Then the male moves behind the female and parts the long backward-pointing quills on either side of her haunches. She erects the quills on her back and raises her tail. The male then stands on his hind legs and cautiously advances until the underside of her tail is supporting his belly — and intromission is successfully achieved.".Interestingly enough, once having successfully negotiated the hazards of such congress, a pair seems only too happy to repeat it. Although the female only becomes fertile every 35 days or so. The male mounts evenings and actually copulates on most if not all occasions. Perhaps this consolidates their relationship with one another. If that is the case, then they are the only mammals to do so apart from some primates."

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated May 2016

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