Wildlife Facts

Eurasian Badger (Meles meles)

With their striking facial markings, badgers are easily recognisable. Also known as brocks, they are one of the UK’s favourite mammals.

Life span
Up to 14 years.

Statistics
Head and body length: 65-80cm, Weight: 8-12kg.

Physical Description
Eurasian badgers are easily recognisable by the conspicuous black and white stripes running from the nose to the shoulders. They are stocky animals with short black legs and silvery grey backs.

Distribution
Badgers range from Europe to Japan and S. China. In Britain, badgers are most abundant in south west England, Wales and small areas of north east England.

Habitat
They generally prefer forest and grassland.

Diet
Badgers feed on earthworms, frogs, rodents, birds, eggs, lizards, insects, bulbs, seeds and berries.

Behaviour
Eurasian badgers are nocturnal and emerge from their setts at dusk. They live in family groups, or clans, of up to 12 individuals, which occupy a shared territory of 125-375 acres. The boundaries of the territories are marked out with odour and defended.

Badgers inhabit underground burrows called setts which consist of several chambers, passages and entrances and are used by successive generations of badgers. Nesting material is often carried out of the sett in the day and aired in the sunshine.

They are gregarious and will indulge in playful romping, which helps to strengthen their social bonds.

Reproduction
Badgers exhibit a breeding phenomena known as delayed implantation, which means that they can breed at any time of the year. The purpose is to ensure that young are produced at a time when temperature and food conditions are at their optimum. After mating, they keep the fertilised eggs in the uterus in a state of suspended development until they are implanted in the uterine wall, usually after 10 months. After a further gestation period of 7-8 weeks, they give birth to a litter of 1-6 cubs.

Conservation status
Badgers are not considered endangered but numbers have been depleted. They are protected under various wildlife acts and UK law states that it is an offence to kill, injure or capture a badger, or to interfere with its sett.

It is estimated that 50,000 badgers meet their deaths in Britain through road traffic accidents every year. Badgers are hunted legally and illegally in many of the countries they inhabit.


Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Red foxes have become the most widespread dogs in the wild, having overtaken grey wolves to the top spot. They are often included in folklore, with a reputation for being sly and cunning. There are approximately 40 subspecies.

Life span
In the wild, red foxes seldom live for more than seven years, but in captivity they live for up to 15 years.

Statistics
Head and body length: 50-90cm, Tail length: 30-50cm, Standing height: 35-45cm, Weight: 6-10kg.

Physical Description
As the name suggests, red foxes have red/brown fur. This can vary in coloration and can give rise to black, silver or cross morphs. The long, bushy tail (brush) is often tipped with white fur, and the backs of the ears are black, as are part of the legs. They have slender muzzles, with white fur on the top lip, and some individuals have black tear marks. The chest is often white.

Distribution
Red foxes are widespread across Europe (but absent from Iceland), Canada, USA, and in Asia from Japan to Indochina. They were introduced to Australia.

Habitat
They are typically found in woodland and open country, but their presence in urban areas is increasing.

Diet
Red foxes are opportunist feeders and eat insects, earthworms, fruit, berries, wild birds, small mammals and scraps left by humans.

Behaviour
Red foxes are primarily active at dusk and night. They are solitary, but they very occasionally group together in a pack.

Foxes forage alone in different parts of their territory, which may extend from 25 to 5,000 acres (10-2,000 hectares), depending on the habitat. Territories are marked by faeces and urine.

Reproduction
Vixens come into heat once a year for one to six days. They give birth to four to seven cubs in a den (also called an earth), after a gestation period of 51-53 days. The cubs are weaned after seven to nine weeks, and become sexually mature after a year. The number of cubs and the time of year in which the vixen gives birth depends on food availability.

Conservation status
They are not considered to be endangered, and are the most widespread and abundant wild carnivore in the world.

Notes
Red foxes are the animal symbol of Hokkaido.


European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

The ancestor of all domestic rabbits, the European rabbit has become so successful that it is considered a pest in many areas. They were introduced to the UK by the Normans in the 12th century to provide meat and fur.

Life span
Up to 9 years.

Statistics
Head-body length: 30-40 cm, Weight: 1.2-2kg.

Physical Description
Rabbits are smaller and less gangly than hares, and have shorter ears. The tips of the ears are brown, and the upper surface of the tail is dark brown. The characteristic white flash on the underside of the tail can be seen when the animal is fleeing. The body fur is brown/grey.

Distribution
Rabbits are widespread in western Europe, including the Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and the British Isles. They are also found in North Africa and have been introduced to Australia, New Zealand and North and South America.

Habitat
They live on heathland, open meadow, grassland, woodland, the fringes of agricultural land and dry sandy soil, including sand dunes, but they avoid coniferous forests.

Diet
Rabbits eat the leaves of a wide range of vegetation including agricultural crops, cereals, young trees and cabbages. In winter, they eat grasses, bulbs and bark. They re-ingest their faeces for nutritional benefit.

Behaviour
Rabbits have a burrow system known as a warren, and tunnels can be 1-2m long. The nest at the end of the tunnel is lined with grass, moss and belly fur. They use regular trails, which they scent mark with faecal pellets.

Reproduction
Mating occurs throughout the year with most litters born between February and August. Litters range in size between 3 and 12, after a gestation period of 28-33 days, and the kittens are weaned after 28 days.

Conservation status
Rabbit populations are increasing, as they are becoming immune to the myxomatosis virus. Rabbits become sexually mature after just four months and breed rapidly, so they can readily replace themselves.