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Badger fights / Badgers fighting

That badgers fight is beyond dispute, but fights between badgers are rarely witnessed. Of course, badgers are largely nocturnal creatures that are rarely seen other than by enthusiastic badger watchers, and perhaps fighting during much of the year is a relatively unusual phenomenon.

Many creatures prefer threat displays to physical combat and badgers are no exception. When faced with potential conflict, badger cubs, for example, turn to face the perceived aggressor and in so doing show off their quite striking facial pattern; they also fluff up their coat and arch their back so as to make themselves appear as large as possible; and emit what are quite scary, threatening noises.

Markers, too, are laid down in the form of latrines around territorial boundaries and scent along well-used paths and close to the sett, markers that act as statements of occupation warning off badgers from other social groups that may be tempted to trespass.

But despite best efforts at avoidance, fighting does sometimes occur, particularly in areas where badgers live at high density. Fights are most frequent during the early parts of the year up until May, that is during the peak mating period when males may be tempted to wander in search of matings, and females defend very small cubs by attacking other badgers that too closely approach 'their' area of the sett.

Fights are often vicious affairs accompanied by much snarling, growling, pushing, shoving and biting - bites tend to be aimed at the back, just above the tail, and at the ears and neck. Nasty wounds may often result and indeed, in extreme cases, deaths may occur.

(1) A right royal melee - 0.58 minutes

An adult badger emerges out into the open from its sett (not in view on the left) and is followed by what appears to be a well-grown, this-year's cub.

The cub is almost immediately attacked by another badger coming in from the right. The adult, seemingly half-heartedly, joins in followed by two others drawn from the sett by the melee.

There seems to be a certain amount of indiscriminate nipping but I assume that the four resident badgers are repelling the invader and in their excited state, nip out at just about anything that moves.

What possessed the interloper to attack is anybodies' guess - it's almost as if it's the advance guard of an invasion force. But no, it was maybe just passing and decided to chance a random attack. Very strange - who knows what goes through the mind of badgers?

Mercifully for all concerned, the squabble ends just as quickly as it started.

(2) An attack on a well-grown cub - 1.57 minutes

Here, an adult badger - the sow - feeds on the edge of a sett engulfed in vegetation away to the left. What I think is a fairly well-grown, this-year's cub tentatively emerges but appears to be very timid (and with good reason).

Another badger, the boar (question) appears from the sett area and completely without provocation, attacks the cub - this is proper, aggressive fighting, far nastier than the sort of 'play-fighting' more associated with cubs.

The sow defends the cub before they all trot back towards the sett.

(3) A real commotion - 1.42 minutes

A badger sits close to an outlying sett entrance half a mile away from the main sett. The entrance is located beneath a skeletal tree on an exposed hillside. The weather is decidedly wintry here in the early hours of the morning at the end of March, 2021.

Something a little way down the hillside commands the animal's attention, so-much-so that it's prompted to express what is presumably displeasure using at this stage fairly calm tutting and chirruping sounds.

The badger goes off to investigate and shortly after returns with a second animal present, too - probably another boar that has encroached upon the resident's territory. Both are intent on fighting although the confrontation is quickly over. Bites around the rear end on this occasion are a favourite form of attack and so are nips to the area around the neck. Angry noises, including dog-like growls, can be heard before one of the badgers, presumably the interloper, reluctantly moves away.

A tawny owl calls softly in the distance, not at all concerned by which of the badgers comes out on top of this battle on the remote, windswept hillside.

Further information and a variety of fascinating badger videos

Badgers - a general introduction
Badger field signs - look out for evidence of badger presence in the countryside
Badger watching - a guide to watching badgers
Badger behaviour - an introduction to a series of badger behaviour videos, mostly shot in the New Forest, and lots more information about badgers
Badger's setts - situation, size, tunnelling and excavation (videos)
Emergence from the sett - times of emergence and factors influencing variation (videos)
Grooming and mutual grooming - badgers grooming themselves and each other (videos)
Scent marking - badgers scent marking their nearest and dearest, and also their territory (videos)
Badger bedding - essential comfort for a good day's sleep (videos)
Play fighting amongst the cubs - high jinks by the sett, but also preparation for later life (videos)
Badger fights / badgers fighting - potentially vicious affairs (videos)
Badgers and foxes together - an often uncomfortable relationship (videos)
Disturbance at badger setts - by people, cats, dogs and passing foxes (videos)
Other animals in the sett, and animal passers-by - shared living space, rabbits, mice, deer, ponies and more (videos)

References:
The Natural History of Badgers, Ernest Neal
Badgers: Ernest Neal and Chris Cheeseman
Darkness Is Light Enough: Chris Ferris
Out of the Darkness: Chris Ferris
Eileen Soper's Badgers
Mammals of Britain and Europe: David Macdonald and Priscilla Barrett


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Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley