Brook with brock
By Frank Tunbridge
The badger is often in the headlines, linked with the spread of TB. Wildlife enthusiast Frank Tunbridge describes the habits of 'brock', one of Britain's oldest natives.
Badgers are delightful creatures, whether seen making their workmanlike way across a field at dusk, or trundling down a country lane, caught in the headlights of your car.
The “Brock” is old English for badger, and many towns and villages throughout Britain have the word in their name, for example Brockenhurst, Brockhampton, Brockworth etc.
The word badger is derived from the French verb Becher, “to dig”, and badgers can dig themselves virtually underground in no time at all.
Badgers are omnivorous: their diet includes roots, berries, slugs, beetles, worms, mice and young rabbits. They use their powerful claws to dig down into rabbit warrens to eat the young rabbits.
Badgers are one of the few omnivorous members of the weasel family and can, if necessary go many weeks without meat. They will even resort to carrion if all else fails.
They are very adaptable animals and because of this have managed to exist very well in urban areas.
The destruction of black bin liners, and upturned dustbins with their scattered contents, are often due to nightly visits by brock.
During the autumn a Badger will gorge himself until he is as fat as possible before the first frost arrives, as this fat is called upon during the lean winter months.
Although badgers do not hibernate, their metabolism slows down during winter and their appetite decreases accordingly.
The badger is one of the oldest native British mammals, and was around at the time of the lynx, beaver, wolf and bear.
His powerful build and punishing bite are such that he has no enemies apart from man, who, seeing these gladiatorial qualities, often used him in badger baiting 'contests' against hard bitten types of terriers. Thankfully, this “so called” sport is now outlawed.
A badger’s underground home is called a sett, and is generally situated in or near woodland of a sandy soil composition.
Many of these setts cover a larger area and are handed down from generation to generation.
The inhabitants keep the sett extremely clean and drag any soiled bedding to the outside, this is usually an indication that Brock is at home.
They also dig and use latrines situated at a small distance from the sett.
Badger cubs are born blind, covered with very thin bristle-like hair, but later on in the year can be seen at dusk foraging for food with their mother and the rest of the group.
Like all members of the weasel family, including ferrets, the young are very playful, and if you are lucky you may see the cubs play fighting close to the sett.
So poor brock, with man's hand against him over many issues including environmental damage, the TB in cattle issue, recent aggressive behaviour and damage to crops, livestock etc. It’s a wonder he manages to survive and prosper, but he does.
Long may he exist so we can still catch a glimpse of his black and white face at dusk and hear his pig like snufflings and grunts in his search for food.
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last updated: 17/10/07