Badger in Saaremaa.
The tradition of electing an animal of the year has not existed for long. The first attempt to have an animal of the year goes back 9 years, when in 2007 the badger was to have the title. The idea came to nothing then and the hope to have a better understanding of the life and doings of the badger remained at having a “Badger” beer in shops.
The first Animal of the Year was the wolf, in 2013, after that the ringed seal in 2014 and the boar last year. As a result of successful cooperation with our southerly neighbours last year the boar was the animal of the year in Latvia too, and so is the badger this year. Hopefully it will become a tradition to last many years between our countries. In the year of the badger the badger is also the heraldic animsl of the photo contest “Vereta jaht – Bloodless hunt”.
The annual cycle of the badger starts with winter sleep in the nest in its den or castle. The nest is lined with moss, leaves and grass. During the winter the badger goes just outside the castle a few times to breather fresh air, but waking up and longer walks away from the den will not happen until March if there is a proper winter. The warm winter of last year brought the badger to the deer camera, half a kilometre away from the den, already on the last days of January. By spring the badger has used up all its winter fat store and lost many kilos of its body weight.
In March or early April the badger gives birth to blind cubs, three on average, that will be able to see in a month. In one more month the cubs will show themselves outside the den in their baby fur coats.
In April the badgers have a large-scale den cleaning – backing out, they roll old nest material out of the den and in the same way bring in fresh parasite-free lining matter. Soil is dug out in order to enlarge the tunnel system of the den. The industrious animal changes nest materials several times during the summer.
The matings begin in June and may take place even in September. The development of the foetus has a delay or latency period that allows the pups to be born in the right time – in spring.
Autumn is fattening-up time for badgers, to get a sufficient store of fat under the skin in order to manage until spring. Badgers can be seen in an oat field noisily eating the cereals. Earthworms, insects, frogs, reptiles, fungi, berries, roots and other edible objects that will not run away quickly help the badger to lay on the thick fat layer for winter.
In autumn the cubs are capable of living on their own but still stay in the birth den with their mother for winter.