How badgers make scents of their home
TO conclude my short series on badgers, at least for now: Of all the senses with which badgers are credited, the sense of smell is considered particularly important and plays a vital role in communication.
In order to communicate through their sense of smell badgers have several scent glands which produce a variety of odours.
Odours produced through these glands are used as olfactory (smell) signals and distribute certain information including warning signals and mating availability.
Scents produced are also used to tighten bonds between social groups and studies suggest that each clan member has a similar scent. Passing on this information through scent is achieved in a variety of ways.
In squat marking badgers will briefly dip their rear end down and lift their tail. This is usually done around the sett, on well-used paths and at latrine sites.
Badgers will also scent mark each other through allo-marking, where one badger will scent mark the other.
Allo-marking can take two forms, firstly where one badger will solely mark the other and secondly, where two badgers will back up to each other and press their rear ends together.
In the UK, badgers live in mixed-sex groups of between four and eight animals in underground ‘setts’. A social group living together in the same sett is also known as a ‘clan’ or a ‘cete’. Each clan will have several setts throughout their territory and will use them at different times. A main sett is the ‘hub’ of the activity and is normally occupied all year round.
Several other setts will be dotted around the clan’s territory and are used for different reasons - occasionally as a bolt-hole or by younger members moving out of the social group.
Badgers are commonly classed as highly social animals. However, evidence suggests that their so-called social behaviour may only be linked to their living habits and does not represent evidence seen in the field.
While badgers tend to live in groups, they do not act cooperatively with their fellow clan members. There is little evidence to suggest that badgers help other clan members in finding food or defending themselves. So why do they live together?
The most widely recognised view to why badgers live together is that of availability of territory and food. In Hans Kruuk’s studies of badger diet the Resource Dispersion Hypothesis was put forward suggesting that one badger would need access to several different feeding ‘stations’ as the seasons changed. Therefore the badgers’ territory needs to have a certain amount of feeding ‘stations’ to be fruitful for the whole year.
It has also been put forward that each ‘station’ can provide food for many badgers, at no additional cost. This leads to the prediction that group size depends on the richness of feeding stations and their ability to feed several badgers.
An area with valuable resources will be defended as a territory. Valuable resources include rich feeding areas, good areas of cover (typically woodland) and access to mating.
Badgers have a long history of cruelty and persecution in the UK spanning hundreds of years. To this day badgers remain one of the most persecuted of all species despite having one of the highest levels of protection in law.
Despite their protection, thousands of badgers every year across the UK meet horrific fates due to both barbaric acts of cruelty and the illegal use of machinery in otherwise legal activities such as farming. The most prevalent wildlife crimes involving badgers are: development related, farming related, land clearance, shooting, badger baiting, poisoning, trapping, to name a few.
Keep your eyes open and please report anything suspicious to the police.
As humans ‘we’ have not got a great history when it comes to cruelty to badgers but, it doesn’t stop there, because just a small bit of research reveals that a few hundred years ago, ‘we’ didn’t stop with badgers, and as a nation, we baited everything from monkeys to donkeys, and from badgers to, wait for it, humans!
Seems like not much has changed.
Badgers have several scent glands
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop