The European badger (Meles meles) is a species of badger of the genus Meles, native to almost all of Europe. It is classed as Least Concern for extinction by the IUCN, due to its wide distribution and large population.
The European badger is a social, burrowing animal which lives on a wide variety of plant and animal foods. It is very fussy over the cleanliness of its burrow, and defecates in latrines. Cases are known of European badgers burying their dead family members. Although ferocious when provoked, a trait which was once exploited for the blood sport of badger-baiting, the European badger is generally a peaceful animal, having been known to share its burrows with other species such as rabbits, red foxes and raccoon dogs. Although it does not usually prey on domestic stock, the species is nonetheless alleged to damage livestock through spreading bovine tuberculosis.
In winter, the fur on the back and flanks is long and coarse, consisting of coarse and bristly guard hairs with a sparse, soft undercoat. The belly fur consists of short, sparse hairs, with skin being visible in the inguinal region. Guard hair length on the middle of the back is 75–80 mm (3.0–3.1 in) in winter. Prior to hibernation, the throat, lower neck, chest and legs are black. The belly is of a lighter, brownish tint, while the inguinal region is brownish-grey. The general colour of the back and sides is light silvery-grey, with straw-coloured highlights on the sides. The tail has long and coarse hairs, and is generally the same colour as the back. Two black bands pass along the head, starting from the upper lip and passing upwards to the whole base of the ears. The bands sometimes extend along the neck and merge with the colour of the upper body. The front parts of the bands are 15 mm (0.59 in), and widen to 45–55 mm (1.8–2.2 in) in the ear region. A wide, white band extends from the nose tip through the forehead and crown. White markings occur on the lower part of the head, and extend backwards to a great part of the neck's length. The summer fur is much coarser, shorter and sparser, and is much darker in colour, with the black tones becoming brownish and the yellowish tinges. Partial melanism in badgers is known, and albinos are not uncommon. Albino badgers can be pure white or yellowish with pink eyes. Erythristic badgers are more common than the former, being characterised by having a sandy-red colour on the usually black parts of the body. Yellow badgers are also known.
Social and Territorial Behaviours
European badgers are the most social of badgers, forming groups of six adults on average, though groups of 23 are known. Group size may be related to habitat composition. In optimal habitat, badger territories can be as small as 30 ha, and large as 150 ha in marginal areas. Badger territories can be identified by the presence of communal latrines and well-worn paths. Dominance hierarchy is not evident, with animals within and outside a group showing considerable tolerance of each other. Boars tend to mark their territories more actively than sows, with their territorial activity increasing during the mating season in early spring. Badgers groom each other very thoroughly with their claws and teeth. Grooming may have a social function. They are crepuscular and nocturnal in habits. Aggression among badgers is largely associated with territorial defence and mating. When fighting, they bite each other on the neck and rump, while running and chasing. Injuries incurred in such fights can be severe and sometimes fatal. When attacked by dogs or sexually excited, badgers may raise their tails and fluff up their bodies. European badgers have an extensive vocal repertoire; when threatened, they emit deep growls. They bark when surprised, and whicker when playing or are distressed. When fighting, they emit low kekkering noises.