With their little Zorro mask, badgers are easily identifiable. But few are lucky enough to be able to observe these shy and reserved mustelids. A portrait of enthusiastic, united and peaceful workers who deserve all our respect … rather than being murdered in the bottom of their burrows.

When we come across an individual after dark, pointing his nose out of his burrow, we think we are dreaming. The timidity of European badgers (Meles meles) is such that they prefer to stay looking pretty if they spot the slightest danger thanks to their highly developed sense of smell. It is not for nothing that they choose to spend more than half of their lives in a safe place in their home.

Responsible architects

Outstanding diggers and earthmovers, it is underground that they become seal off. But their shelters are nothing like simple caves, dug anywhere in a hurry! As good engineers, they do not choose their addresses at random. When they have the possibility and the environment is not too heavily anthropized, they prefer discreet environments (undergrowth, thickets, hedges), set back from human activity. Their real preferences go to the soil, which is both soft and resistant and if possible, sloping (slopes, hillsides, etc.) which will facilitate mucking out and drainage. They also ensure the structure of the surrounding vegetation whose roots will guarantee the sustainability of their works, as well as the presence of water and sufficient food resources for all of their small community. 

Tireless builders

Once the location of their future home has been identified, work can begin. And they can count on their endurance, their courage, their ardour and the prowess of their paws to design real crypts worthy of those inside cathedrals! Thus, some burrows sometimes extend over several hectares. It must be said that with badgers, one takes care of the family heritage. Their homes have grown over the generations, with a tangle of galleries buried up to five meters deep! Each serves floors and rooms intended for specific uses: dormitories, birthing room and even latrines! Very keen on the comfort and hygiene of their home, the kings of the household regularly clean their interior, ventilate the litter boxes and even renew them, returning from surface expeditions loaded with moss and armfuls of dry grass or ferns.

Group spirit

Each of the adults occupying the household takes part in domestic chores. Here, the females do not have to complain about the males to support them! And there is always a lot to do within collective housing which brings together an average of ten individuals, young badgers included. Very close-knit, the family clan shares everything, including the same smell with which it blithely marks its territory. In addition to olfactory markings, badgers also communicate by suing a wide range of sound signals ranging from purrs to howls, including groans, squeaks, bleating, and other grunts. And when the little ones have fun together in the fresh spring grass, they are cheerful cheers! Including when they play with their neighbours the pups, whose parents squat part of their vacant burrows, without anyone being offended!

A false reputation

So, badgers have nothing to do what so ever with these abject monsters so portrayed and who are slaughtered by hunters. Underground and careful night owls, they suffer from their discretion and the ignorance that surrounds them. At least since the Middle Ages, they have been criticized of wrong doing, their smell, their darkness, and why not go ahead, their masked faces … Today, their detractors are trying to justify the hatred they have for them by accusing them of stealing a few ears of corn in cultures, to be vectors of diseases, sometimes to jeopardize the urban infrastructure. So many exaggerations, even fallacious arguments, illustrating above all the inability of some humans to bear the presence of wildlife alongside them, even when it’s, they who invade it! In this unequal and unfair fight, badgers look like perfect scapegoats. We can assume all types of misdemeanours about them, which in their defence is completely unfounded! Only those who are interested in badgers will discover a high level of sentience of these extremely endearing animals and their considerable role in preserving biodiversity. They notably contribute to soil aeration and the dissemination of seeds in their excrement. Let them live in peace, that’s all they aspire to! And if their customs and their faces still conceal a part of a mystery, it is undoubtedly that they reserve their precious secrets only to a few insiders …