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. 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.
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.
Eurasian badgers are around 27.56 in (70 cm) long with a tail of about 7.88 in (20 cm) and weigh 22.05 lb (10 kg) on average. 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. They 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 extensive networks of tunnels. The tunnels 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. They keep the fertilized eggs in suspended development until an appropriate time, at which stage the eggs are implanted and begin developing. Badgers have a pregnancy period of 7 to 8 weeks and give birth to 1 to 5 offspring. Males are called boars and female’s 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.