European badger


©Mark Davison

European badger

Scientific name: Meles meles
Badgers are the UK’s largest land predator and are one of the most well-known British species. They are famed for their black and white stripes and sturdy body, using their strong front paws to dig for food and to perfect their hobbit-like burrows, called ‘setts’.

Species information


Length: 75-100cm
Tail: 15cm
Weight: 8-12kg
Average lifespan: 5-8 years

Conservation status

Protected in the UK under the Protection of Badgers Act, 1992, and the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

January to December


The black-and-white striped badger is a well-known species in the UK. It is our largest land predator feeding on small mammals, birds’ eggs, worms, fruit and plants. Badgers live in large family groups in burrows under the ground called a ‘sett’. You know if a sett is lived in as it is usually neat and tidy with clean doorways marked with piles of used bedding (hay and leaves). There will also be a particularly smelly pit nearby that the badgers use as a toilet! They have strong front paws, which they use to dig for food. Cubs are born in January or February but spend the first few months underground only coming out in spring when it is a little warmer.

How to identify

An unmistakable animal, the badger is large and grey, with a short, fluffy tail, black belly and paws, and a black-and-white striped face.

In our area

Badgers are surprisingly widespread around London's outer suburbs, and in some parts they're even common. They are increasingly being spotted in cemeteries and allotments, on waste ground, in back gardens and on railway edges. Brockley in south east London is the one locality name that actually references badgers - 'brocc' being the Old English name given to badgers. 

Studies have discovered interesting differences between urban badgers and their rural relatives. City badgers tend to have smaller family groups comprising five or six individuals (compared to an average of 30 in rural locations). They live in much smaller areas with fewer 'satellite' or outlying setts, perhaps because there's less space available in London. Badgers living in urban environments are also slightly larger than their country cousins. 


Found throughout England, Wales, Scotland (except for the far north) and Northern Ireland. Absent from Scottish islands, the Isle of Man, the Isles of Scilly and the Channel Islands.

Did you know?

Badgers can eat several hundred earthworms a night! They are also one of the only predators of hedgehogs - their thick skin and long claws help them to get past the vicious spines. If food is in short supply, badgers will forage during the day, as well as at night. If there are badgers nearby, you can tempt them into your garden by leaving unsalted peanuts out - a tasty snack for our striped friends.