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Eurasian Badger (Meles meles) - Wiki
Subject: Eurasian Badger (Meles meles) - Wiki
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Eurasian Badger (Meles meles) - Wiki

Eurasian Badger
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[Photo] European badger, Meles meles. Source Author Julio Loras Zaera

The Eurasian or European badger, Meles meles, is a mammal indigenous to most of Europe (excluding northern Scandinavia, Iceland, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and Cyprus) and to many parts of Asia, from about 15° to 65° North, and from about 10° West to 135° East. It is particularly abundant in Britain and Ireland.

It is a member of the Mustelidae family, and so is related to the stoats, otters, weasels, minks and other badgers. The Eurasian badger is the only species classified in the genus Meles. Accepted subspecies include Meles meles meles (Western Europe), Meles meles marianensis (Spain and Portugal), Meles meles leptorynchus (Russia), Meles meles leucurus (China and Tibet), and Meles meles anaguma (Japan).

The general hue of its fur is grey above and black on the under parts with a distinctive black and white striped face and white-tipped ears.

Lifestyle, diet, and habitat
Eurasian badgers are around 70 cm long with a tail of about 20 cm and weigh 10 kg on average, but weights can vary enormously. In the northern area of the range (only), badgers hibernate and put on fat in the autumn to help them through the winter months. In parts of Russia, badgers may weigh as much as 32 kg in the autumn. Badgers are omnivorous; most of their diet consists of earthworms, although they also eat insects, beetles, small mammals, lizards, frogs, eggs, young birds, berries, roots, bulbs, nuts, fruit, and other plant matter. They also dig up the nests of wasps in order to eat the larvae.

Badgers prefer grazed pasture and woodland, which have high numbers of earthworms exposed, and dislike clay soil, which is difficult to dig even with their powerful claws. In urban areas, some badgers scavenge food from bins and gardens.

Badgers are nocturnal and spend the day in their setts, or extensive networks of tunnels. Setts enable them to survive through very hot or cold weather.

They are territorial, but can be found in groups (called clans) of up to 12. Each clan has a dominant male and female which are often (but not always) the only members of the clan to reproduce. Female badgers can display delayed implantation: after mating at any time of the year, they keep the fertilised eggs in suspended development until an appropriate time, at which stage the eggs are implanted and begin developing. Badgers have a gestation period of 7-8 weeks and give birth to 1-5 offspring. Males are called boars and females sows; the young are cubs. Badgers live for up to 15 years (average 3 years) in the wild, and up to 19 years in captivity. If they survive their first year, the most common cause of death is by road traffic.

Fossil remains of the badger have been found in England in deposits of Pleistocene age.

Badgers are prone to Baylisascaris infestations. They can catch and carry rabies and are believed to transmit bovine tuberculosis (see below).

Badgers, hunting and blood sports
Badger baiting, in which a badger is attacked by a succession of dogs, often accompanied by heavy gambling, has been practiced since at least the Middle Ages in Europe. When the badger is no longer able to fight, it is killed. Badger digging is the process of sending dogs down the tunnels of a badger sett in order to locate the badger, after which the diggers try to dig down to the badger.

In the UK, the Badger Trust believes that lamping (night-time hunting on foot with strong lamps) for badgers, badger baiting and badger digging persist despite all being illegal. Badger baiting was outlawed in 1835; badger digging in 1973. Lamping with dogs is legal only if rabbits are hunted since the passing of the Hunting Act 2004, lamping with guns is legal only for species not protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Under the Protection of Badgers Act of 1992 it is an offence to kill a badger or to interfere with a sett without a licence from the government (typically for culling).

The results of the first national badger survey published in 1990 estimated that 9,000 badgers were killed each year by badger digging.

Badgers and the spread of bovine TB
British farmers and successive governments have long believed that bovine TB was being spread by badgers and infecting the national dairy herd, and since the 1970s badgers have been culled by gassing (now ceased) and shooting in attempts to prevent this spread.

Tests carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture in the early 1970s showed that TB was more common in badgers than in other species. In the first Badger Act (1973), meant that licenses had to be issued for the killing of badgers. However there are various other theories concerning the transmission of TB to cattle, and badger culling remains a contentious issue in the UK. Recent scientific research shows that about 80% of TB in the cattle herd is due to cattle to cattle transmission.

Research into the specific mechanisms of how cattle contract bovine TB from badgers and into normal levels of transmission when culling is not practised is scanty. Following the recommendations of the Krebs report of 1997 (Bovine Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers), a research trial of badger culling, the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), was begun. Part of the aim was to establish baselines which could be used to assess the efficacy of culls in future. As noted in the Godfray report (Independent Scientific Review of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial and Associated Epidemiological Research) of March 2004, the trial has experienced major problems, but continues.

Badgers are popular with the general public, if not with farmers, and societies exist to protect the species. The Badger Trust is the umbrella body for a series of groups like the Lancashire Badger Group formed for the conservation of these animals. Their most serious threat is automobile traffic, which kills about 50,000 badgers a year in Britain. In 2004, there were between 250,000 and 300,000 badgers in the wild in Britain.
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