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Badgers and foxes together - an often uncomfortable relationship

Badgers and foxes are both largely nocturnal creatures, at least in the countryside, and both live in underground tunnel systems - badgers for virtually all of the year and foxes primarily during winter and spring - so it's not surprising that from time-to-time they encounter one another.

In fact, they sometimes do more than encounter one another for both frequently inhabit the same tunnel systems, all-be-it generally at a reasonable distance apart. Indeed, it's not unusual at large badger setts - and bear in mind, some setts have been found to have up to 80 entrances and 354 metres of tunnels - to find badgers in residence at one end, foxes at the other and rabbits somewhere in-between.

Certainly, badgers and foxes in most circumstances keep a respectful distance from each other, although as can be seen in videos x, x and x, it's more the fox that gives its badger neighbours a wide berth rather than vice versa, for in a fight, in most cases, an adult badger would be the clear victor. (On one occasion, I found the badly decomposed body of what appeared to be a young fox by a badgers' sett, but whether the badgers were responsible for the death, whilst likely, is open to conjecture).

Badgers and foxes will, however, given half the chance, devour small cubs of the other species, a very real threat well-known to both. I've seen, for example, a fox pass over a badgers' sett - whether or not the fox was in residence I don't know - and moments later watched a badger emerge from an adjacent tunnel entrance carrying in its jaws, by the scruff of the neck, a very small cub which was clearly deemed to be at risk from predation by the fox. The cub was deposited underground a distance away before the procedure was repeated for another two cubs.

And it's not just tiny badger cubs that are risk from foxes, or so it seems, for even badger cubs that are reasonably well-grown, as can be seen in videos x and x, tend to be extremely wary of a fox.

(1) Foxes at play - 2.34 minutes

This fox family lived on the extreme edge of a tunnel system originally excavated by badgers. Badgers were in residence at the far end of the system, around 100 metres away. Neither species interacted with the other as far as I could tell, although sad-to-say, the fox family did not survive, but that's another story that will be told in the context of foxes.

(2) A fox turns tail and runs away when a badger approaches - 0.31 minutes

It's the early hours of the morning and a fox has the cheek to search for the remains of food put down for badgers the previous evening. It's not likely that any has been left but the fox, ever the optimist, continues its search.

The fox soon wanders out of the frame, returns, briefly peers nervously back in the direction of the badgers' sett, and then runs rapidly away as a large badger approaches.

The badger, its snout filthy dirty after snuffling about for earthworms, beetles and other delicacies, does not give chase or behave aggressively in any way, but the fox obviously does not want to risk a confrontation.

Perhaps it has previously tangled with a badger and has no desire to repeat the experience.

(3) Badgers chase away a fox - 2.41 minutes

A badger and a fox initially tolerate each other whilst feeding on peanuts close to a sett that is home to three badger cubs. The fox appears to be very wary of the badger, whilst the badger does not seem to be overly concerned by the fox's presence.

The fox is, however, eventually chased away but soon returns, only to be chased away again - the chasing badger on both occasions shows a remarkable turn of speed for such a stocky, short-legged animal.

(4) Badger cubs are very nervous in the presence of a fox - 0.58 minutes

Fairly well-grown badger cubs can be seen here to be very nervous as a fox prowls around their sett, and are extremely reluctant to stay above ground until the threat has gone.

(There is no sign of an adult badger that would, no doubt, have driven away the fox).

(5) The fox returns and again startles a badger cub, but does not stay for long - 4.30 minutes

Later on the same night as shown previously (4), the fox returns and startles a badger cub that immediately dashes underground.

It, or another cub, re-emerges 17 minutes later and soon three cubs and the sow are sufficiently relaxed to engage in play fighting, mutual grooming and general loafing around the sett.

Mid-way through, the cubs show further signs of nervousness but the cause is not the return of the fox but the arrival of another adult badger, presumably the boar, which quickly joins in with the family activities.

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