Badger Meles meles Broc

Although its closest relations are other carnivores like the Otter and the Marten, the Badger is for all the world Ireland's bear. It has a similar shape and a low centre of gravity and frequently adopts bearlike attitudes. Its favourite food is earthworms and other invertebrates but a variety of berries, fruits and nuts are also taken. Small mammals and other animals are also occasionally killed and eaten.

Adult Badgers are usually less than a metre in length but are very heavy for their size (as anyone who has lifted a dead one off the road will agree). They can weigh 50lb (23kg) in exceptional cases.

The striking black-and-white head pattern and greyish body fur give the Badger a singular appearance. The under body is blackish as are the large paws. The Badger's claws are more than an inch long and are used to great effect by the burrowing and foraging animal. They leave an unmistakeable print in soft ground.

Badgers are nocturnal though they may be seen at dawn and dusk going to and from the sett. This is an underground tunnel usually opening out into a network of tunnels which may be occupied by several Badgers. The entrance is often in woodland and reasonably adjacent to agricultural land where earthworms and other food can be sought. Characteristically there is a communal latrine outside, near to the sett entrance; old bedding material (dried grasses, leaves and moss) is deposited outside too. These are good indicators of an occupied sett.

Young Badgers, from one to five (per litter) are produced in early spring and nurtured by the adults for about two months. Some young may overwinter with the adults in their sett.

The Irish name Broc is used universally as a term of endearment for the Badger and it is affectionately regarded in story and folklore. It is ironic that so much abuse has been levelled at this harmless animal as well. Badger baiting - a barbaric activity in which a captive Badger is pitted against a series of dogs - still occurs in parts of the country despite public outcry.