- Ursus meles Linnaeus, 1758
- Meles canescens Blanford, 1875
Eurasian Badger, Badger, European Badger
Value of species
Game (hunting) species
Previously the genus Meles was considered to be monospecific. Recent morphological and genetic studies supported the separation of Meles into three species (Abramov 2002, 2003; Abramov and Puzachenko 2005, 2006). Certain craniological and molecular data suggest that badgers from South-west Asia (here treated as subspecies of M. meles) should be recognised as fourth full species, M. canescens (Del Cerro et al. 2010, Tashima et al. 2011, Abramov and Puzachenko 2013).
Eurasian Badger is widespread throughout Europe west of the River Volga up to the Middle Volga (Russia; both sides of Volga in Nizhnii Novgorod province), the Caucasus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, the southern mountains of Middle Asia (Kopet Dagh Mountains, the South and West Tien Shan Mountains), and the islands of Crete, Rhodes, Ireland, and Britain (Abramov and Puzachenko 2005, Muñoz et al. 2007). Israel holds the southernmost confirmed resident distribution in this region of the range: the southernmost record in Israel is from central Arava (Werner 2012). It has also been recorded at one location in north Sinai, Egypt, where it was found in 2005, perhaps as a wanderer from across the border with Israel (Basuony et al. 2010, M.I. Basuony pers. comm. 2015); there are records from this area on the Israel side of the border, which is cultivated (N. Werner pers. comm. 2014). The closely related Asian Badger M. leucurus occurs east of the River Volga. Eurasian Badger is distributed in the west and north districts of Kirov province, with the east and south of this province inhabited by Asian Badger. The sympatric zone between these species is the country between the Volga and Kama rivers (Abramov et al. 2003). To the east of the Caspian Sea, the ranges of 'the South-west Asian badger' M. meles canescens and M. leucurus are separated by arid desert regions (the Kara Kum and Kyzyl Kum deserts). The contact zone between the two badger species in Central Asia is located in the western Tien-Shan Mountains (Abramov and Puzachenko 2007). Meles m. canescens occurs in the foothills of western Tien-Shan (Karzhantau, Ugam, Chatkal, Kuraminsky and Turkestan ridges), and, probably, in north-western Xingiang, China. In the sympatric zone, in south-eastern Uzbekistan, the two forms substantially differ in their habitat use: M. m. canescens occupies mountain biotopes whereas M. leucurus inhabits plains and semi-deserts (A. V. Abramov pers. comm. 2014).
It occurs from sea level to 3,300 m in Pamir Mountains, and up to 2,500 m in the Caucasus (A.V. Abramov pers. comm. 20006).
Eurasian Badger is abundant across much of its range. Densities have increased in Europe during recent decades (Holmala and Kauhala 2006), in central Europe because of the reduction of rabies. In western Ukraine the population has increased. In Russia, 30,000 individuals were estimated in 1990 (A. V. Abramov pers. comm. 2006). In the United Kingdom (1980s-1990s) there was a 77% increase in the total population size. There are large differences in population densities across its range; in Finland, near the northern limit of its distribution, density is low, at about 2 to 2.5 individuals per 10 km² (Kauhala in litt. 2006). There are only a few records from Iran (Moqanaki et al. 2010). In Israel it is the second most-sighted small carnivore (Werner 2012).
In Europe Eurasian Badger prefers deciduous woods with clearings, or open pastureland with small patches of woodland. It is also found in mixed and coniferous woodland, scrub, suburban areas and urban parks. In south-east Uzbekistan, where M. m. canescens and M. leucurus are sympatric, the two forms differ substantially in their biotope preferences: M. m. canescens occupies mountain biotopes whereas M. leucurus inhabits plains and semi-deserts (A. V. Abramov pers. comm. 2014).
It is an opportunistic forager with an omnivorous diet, including fruit, nuts, bulbs, tubers, acorns, and cereal crops. It also consumes a variety of invertebrates (especially earthworms), the contents of wasp and bee nests, birds' eggs, carrion, and live vertebrate prey such as hedgehogs, moles, and rabbits. In the northern parts of its range it hibernates during winter. Its home range in Finland is very large, with a mean of about 15 km² (Kauhala et al. 2006), and its social system is peculiar, with large overlapping home ranges without any communal den (Kauhala in litt. 2006). In Finland, it does not reproduce every year, and the litter size is small (Kauhala et al. 2006).
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