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The badger is a largely nocturnal, normally shy retiring animal that live in large social groups called a clan. Badgers are closely related to otters, stoats, weasels, polecats and pine martins. The extensive sett at Badger Watch Dorset is sited in a sheltered copse on a gentle slope of a chalky hillside and is around 100 years old, with many entrance holes and a labyrinth of inter-linking tunnels connecting to sleeping and nursery chambers deep underground. The clan at Badger Watch Dorset is large and well established, with around 12 adults.
Badgers are less active in winter, but do not hibernate. The warmer spring nights bring the worms to the surface and provide better foraging conditions.
The mating process involves "delayed implantation". Although females are able to mate any time after the cubs are born the fertilised egg does not implant in the uterus until December. Badger cubs are normally born in February, with usually two or three cubs in a litter.
During March and early April they explore the tunnels and chambers inside the sett, gradually coming nearer to the entrances. The cubs will make their first visits to the world outside in mid to late April. The mother badger is usually close by, making sure her cubs are safe. A cub's first tentative trips outside usually take place late at night, and the cubs do not go very far from the sett entrances. Gradually though, the cubs get braver. They come out earlier, stay out longer, and wander further away from the entrances. Badger cubs are full of energy and are very playful – a delight to observe.
By 12 weeks old, they are being weaned and start learning to forage for themselves alongside their mother. By the time they are 15 weeks old, the cubs are quite happy to go foraging alone. By the autumn, badger cubs are nearly as big as adult badgers. They play much less now, and spend more time eating. They need to build up their body fat so that they will survive their first winter, when there isn't so much food around. If they live through the winter, they have a good chance of growing into fully adult badgers, and having cubs of their own.