Hand-rearing Meles meles - European badger (Wildlife Casualty Management)
Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B. This information should be read in association with Hand-rearing of Orphaned Wildlife which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Meles meles - Eurasian badger
  • Badgers are most likely to be found at 8-10 weeks old as this is when they start to emerge from the sett and may get lost.(D50)
    • At this age the fur is quite long, the eyes and ears are open and the teeth have begun to erupt.

Initial Care: 

General mammal information: 

  • On arrival any young mammal should be weighed, warmed, stimulated to urinate/defecate and given supplementary fluids by an appropriate route to counteract dehydration. 
  • The age should be determined if possible. (See individual species information page, sections "Appearance - Neonate" and "Life Stages - Reproductive stages")
  • The first feed given should be an oral rehydration (electrolyte) solution (e.g. Lectade, Pfizer Limited), with a gradual changeover to a milk substitute over several feeds. See: Hand-rearing of Orphaned Wildlife for further general information.
  • When several infants are being reared together they should be individually recognisable; this is likely to require marking with e.g. correction fluid such as Tippex or with nail varnish.

Badger specific information:

  • Orphaned badger cubs are likely to be stressed cold and hungry when taken into care. (D50)
  • Warm the cubs and rehydrate as required by oral or parenteral fluids as necessary. (D50)
    • Dehydrated cubs will have sunken eyes and a fold of skin will remain "tented" after being pinched up.
  • Veterinary assessment is recommended to determine the degree of dehydration and whether prophylactic antibiotics are required to reduce the risk of opportunistic infections in chilled cubs.(D50)
  • Mark group reared cubs with correction fluid or nail varnish to allow individual identification.(D50)
  • Weigh each cub and give it a general examination. (D50)
  • Treat for ectoparasites with a suitable insecticide; Fipronil (Frontline, Merial Animal Health Ltd.) may be used on cubs more than two days old. (D50)
  • Contact an individual or group with expertise with badgers. The National Federation of Badger Groups should have information regarding contacts in your area.

General Care (including warmth and hygiene):

General mammal information

  • Young mammals have poor ability to maintain body temperature and are prone to hypothermia, hyperthermia and burns, particularly when unfurred or only sparsely furred.
  • Keep out of draughts but ensure ventilation is adequate.
  • Provide heat using an infra red lamp, a hot water bottle or plastic drink bottle wrapped in a towel, placing the infant's container near a radiator or in an airing cupboard, a heat pad placed under the infant's container or in an emergency an incandescent light bulb.
  • Provide a temperature range, e.g. by heating one end of the container more than the other, which, while not allowing either overheating or chilling, permits the animal to choose the position at which it feels most comfortable.
  • The container used should be sufficiently large to allow the occupant to move into a comfortable position.
  • The sides of the container should be sufficiently high to prevent the occupant falling out.
  • Bedding materials should be soft, comfortable and either disposable or easily washed. They should keep the animal dry and be changed as frequently as necessary to prevent soiling.
  • (B194, P3.1987.w5, V.w5)

Badger specific information:

  • Heating from below is preferable to heating from above for badger cubs.(D50) Therefore a hot water bottle wrapped in soft towel may be preferable as a heat source for badger cubs rather than an infra red lamp (B157.w9); however hot water bottles cool rapidly and need frequent monitoring and refilling. (V.w5)
  • Fleece blankets may be use for bedding with torn up newspaper below; non-frayed towels may be used as an alternative to fleece. (D50)
    • Covering the cub will encourage it to settle. (D50)
  • Two or more cubs should be reared together whenever possible; this encourages natural behavioural patterns and minimises the amount of human contact required thus reducing the risk of taming or incorrect imprinting (misimprinting.)
  • A solitary cub requires companionship and therefore human contact (from a single human) until August, but this necessity should be avoided if possible and all human contact discontinued after August. (B152)
    • A single cub should also be provided with a "companion" in the form of a teddy bear or a towel-wrapped hot water bottle. (D50)
  • A single care-giver is preferable; avoid contact with extra people.
  • Reduce human contact once cubs are self feeding and certainly by 12-16 weeks for healthy cubs. (D50)
  • Do not keep in a totally sterile environment; gradual introduction to normal environmental bacteria is suggested to allow cubs to build up natural immunity. (D50)
  • (B151, B152, B157.w10, D50)

Milk replacer:

Badger specific information:

  • Avoid changing between milks: keep to one formula once started.(B157.w10, D50)
    • The risk of nutritional diarrhoea increases when the diet is changed
    • Any necessary dietary change must be made gradually over several feeds to reduce the risk of nutritional diarrhoea.
  • A wide variety of milks and milk replacers have been used for rearing badgers, including:
    • Complan (H J Heinz Co Ltd): one part powder to three parts warm water.(B152, B157.w10)
    • Vitafood : one part powder to three parts warm water.(B152)
    • Esbilac (Pet Ag), used at half strength, alternatively Complan (H J Heinz Co Ltd)(one part powder to three parts warm water), Lactol (Sherley's), goat's milk or lamb milk replacer;(D50)
    • Esbilac or goat's milk.(B151)
    • Esbilac (Pet Ag).(D24)
    • Esbilac (Pet Ag), KMR (Pet Ag), or Lamlac (Volac) (B156.12.w12).
    • Lactol (Sherley's)(B157.w10).
    • Lactol (Sherley's), Complan (H J Heinz Co Ltd), Ostermilk, Vitafood, lamb milk replacer, piglet milk replacer, puppy or kitten milk replacer. (B157.w9)
    • Cow's milk diluted to 50% with water.(B157.w9).
    • Lactol (Sherley's), ewe's milk replacer or sow's milk replacer.(D25)
    • Cow's milk is not recommended.(D50)
  • Supplements used have included: multivitamin drops, mineral supplements, e.g. Abidec (Parke-Davis), Vionate (E.R. Squibb and Sons Limited), calcium gluconate, cod liver oil.(B157.w9, D24)
  • Additives may be added to the first feed each day. Suggested additives are vitamin drops (Abidec, Parke-Davis) and a pinch of a gut flora enhancer (Vetrumex). (D50)
  • A small amount of sugar may be added as a mild laxative if a cub becomes constipated however care should be taken to avoid inducing nutritional diarrhoea.(B152, B157.w9, D50).
  • If mild diarrhoea occurs the strength of the milk formula may be reduced or the formula temporarily diluted with an electrolyte (rehydration) solution.(B152, D50, V.w26)
  • If more severe diarrhoea occurs rehydration (electrolyte) solution should be given for 24 hours, before this is gradually changed back to milk over a further 24 hours.(D50)


  • For cubs below 400g: 1ml syringe with a small Catac kitten teat attached (the cub can pull the plunger in by sucking); this requires repeated refilling.(D50)
  • Catac feeding bottle.(B152)
  • Esbilac Puppy Bottle (Pet Ag).(B151)
  • A babies' bottle may be used but may require excessive sucking from the cub, resulting in exhaustion before sufficient milk has been taken.(D50)
  • If using a babies bottle, use the teat size for newborn babies (as this is soft) and do not enlarge the teat hole as this risks too rapid milk intake and choking/milk inhalation. (D50)
    • If the teat is becoming too worn and a new teat is required, soften this with boiling water before use.(D50)
  • All feeding equipment should be sterilised between feeds as for a human infant. (B152, D50)

Feeding Frequency:

General mammal information: 

  • Varies depending on species and age.
  • In general, every 2-3 hours during the day and longer intervals at night.(P3.1987.w5)

Badger specific information:

Suggested feeding regimes include:

  • Every three hours for very young cubs increasing to every six hours by the time the cub is 500-600g body weight.(D50)
  • Four to five feeds daily.(B151)
  • Every three to four hours.(B157.w10)
  • Every three hours 6am to midnight.(D24)
  • Every four hours.(D25)

Feeding Technique:

General mammal information: Encouraging feeding:

  • To encourage feeding insert teat in mouth, directed towards roof of mouth, and massage the infant's throat gently to encourage swallowing.
  • (P3.1987.w5)

Badger specific information:

  • Toileting should be carried out before feeding as this may act as a stimulation for suckling.
  • Place the cub in a comfortable position in which it can push its front paws against something as if kneading its mother.(D50)
  • May be difficult to get feeding initially, as a hungry cub may latch onto a teat, clench its jaws, hunch its shoulders and not suck; if this occurs wait for the cub to relax.
  • Time and patience may be required to start a cub suckling initially.
  • Stroking the cub may encourage it to suckle.(D50)
  • Keep to a routine.
  • (B152, B157.w10)


General mammal information:

  • Energy intake (kilocalories per day) = 200-250 x weight(kg) 0.83.(P19.1.w5, P3.1987.w3)

General carnivore information:

  • May be fed up to 35-40% of body weight per day, and about 25-50ml/kg per feed. (J34.9.w1)

Badger specific information:

  • 15ml per feed for a 200g cub.(D50)
  • 100ml per feed by five weeks old.(D50)
  • Record the amount of milk taken at each feed and the total taken over each day. (D50)
  • Suggested quantities are approximate only; if the cub's stomach is rounded following feeding it has taken enough.(D50)


General mammal information:

  • Most infant mammals require gentle stimulation of the ano-genital area (using e.g. a damp cotton bud, damp cotton wool or damp soft paper towel) in order to urinate and defecate.
  • This should be done when the animal is first presented and at every feed until voluntary elimination is observed.

Badger specific information:

  • Toileting is usually required before each feed. (D50)
  • Gently massage ano-genital area with warm damp cotton wool or cloth.
    • Kitchen roll covered with a nappy wipe is suitable.(D50)
  • N.B. Winding/Burping may be required - rub back gently.(B151, D50)
  • Keep records of whether urine and faeces have been produced at each feed. (D50)
    • Faeces are normally soft toothpaste consistency and yellow for cubs being milk fed, dark brown for older weaned cubs.(D50)
  • For older cubs allow one or two sites for use as dung pits (latrines), offering newspaper weighed down with bricks at these sites.(D50)
  • The use of a new site as a latrine may be encouraged by moving some dung to the new site.(D50)


General mammal information:

  • Weigh daily. 

Badger specific information:

  • Weigh at the same time each day or every other day, before feeding. (B157.w10)
  • Preferably weigh unweaned cubs daily before the first feed each morning; for weaned cubs weighing may be carried out every few days. (D50)
  • Monitoring of body weight is essential as a key to whether or not the cub is progressing satisfactorily and to confirm sufficient food intake.(B157.w10, D50)


Badger specific information:

Several weaning protocols have been suggested:

  • Start when the permanent incisors appear, providing e.g. finely chopped meat, rusks, tinned dog food, dried complete dog foods. (B152)
  • Start at 8-9 weeks, giving Milupa (Milupa) baby food and scrambled egg. (D24)
  • At 10-12 weeks, minced meat and puppy food mixed with milk may be offered, while the number of feeds is reduced.(D24)
  • 12-13 weeks: puppy food, minced meat, chopped chicks, biscuit. Bottle feed only twice daily then gradually stop altogether.(D24)
  • Start at 8-10 weeks (D50)
    • Initially offer soft foods such as baby food (Milupa, (Milupa)), Weetabix, creamed rice, scrambled eggs, yoghurt or porridge.
    • Cereal-based foods may be offered soaked in meat stock rather than milk for cubs orphaned at weaning age.
    • Later provide a mixture of foods such as minced meat, minced tripe, puppy food, sausages, cooked chicken without bones, minced day-old chick, peanut butter sandwiches, grapes, sunflower seeds, cheese and kitchen scraps.(D50)
  • Dog food initially, then mice or chicks. Take to about 10-12 weeks to wean. (B151)
  • Wean at 10-14 weeks, using tinned cat or dog food, chicken mince, bread and gravy.(B157.w9)
  • Start at 8-10 weeks with baby foods, scrambled eggs. Add minced meat and dead chicks after about a week.
    • Usually weaned by about three months.
    • Expect individual variation in progress to weaning.
  • (B157.w10)
  • Feed at night once weaned.(B152, B224)
  • If a weaned cub develops diarrhoea, provide rehydration solution such as Lectade (Pfizer Limited) and easily digested food such as Milupa (Milupa) baby food and plain chicken.(D50)


Appropriate Use (?)
  • Wild animals should not be taken for hand-rearing unless they are definitely orphaned, abandoned or injured, or in immediate danger.
  • Young cubs found in daylight outside a set are almost certainly orphaned.(B152)
  • Preferably rear in area suitable for release.
  • Soft release is important for hand reared cubs.
  • The whole rearing period, from whatever age, should be aimed towards release of the cub(s) into the wild.(D50)
  • Orphaned cubs are often very hungry when they finally emerge from the sett.(B152)
  • Important to rear at least two cubs together for development of social behaviour. (B157.w10)
  • Vaccination against parvovirus, leptospirosis and distemper may be appropriate (B152) - killed vaccines should be used for safety.(V.w5)
  • Consult with experts including relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Agency and Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods before translocation or release.(B152)
  • Hair loss can occur in hand reared badger cubs and is though to be caused by a milk allergy or stress. The hair coat will grow back given time.(B157.w10, D50)
  • An ordinary outdoor thermometer may be used to indicate the temperature in the container.(B194)
  • Routine records should be maintained of daily weight, times of each feed, quantities of milk consumed, urine/faeces production and general condition/demeanour. Such records provide an objective means of assessing progress and provide useful data for improving rearing methods.(D50,V.w5)
  • Assessment of tameness of a solitary cub can be made only after the cub has been removed from its carer to a new environment with other cubs for company and minimal human contact.(D50)
  • Cubs should be permanently identified as soon as possible by tattooing (using the National Federation of Badger Groups protocol - numbers are issued by Secret World Wildlife Rescue or RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Hospital) and an implanted microchip. A central database of identichip and tattoo numbers is organised through Secret World Wildlife Rescue. A licence is required for tattooing.(D50)
  • Cubs should be reported to the National Federation of Badger Groups as soon as possible to allow groups to be made up for release. 
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Badger cubs are easy to tame: it is important to minimise human contact.
  • Rear with other badger cubs whenever possible: avoid rearing one cub alone.
  • Lactating bitches have been used as foster mothers, but this involves a risk of incorrect imprinting and over-familiarisation with dogs, which could be lethal to the badger following release.(B157.w9)
  • Refusal to feed once sucking well may indicate a problem such as inhalation pneumonia.(B152)
  • Hair loss and red peeling skin may occur if cow's or goat's milk used - presumed allergy (B152); this may alternatively be stress related.(D50)
  • Common problems encountered include nutritional diarrhoea - often associated with cow's milk, constipation , enteritis, pneumonia - may be inhalational, hair loss - this has been associated with use of cow's milk and goat's milk. (B157.w9, D25)
  • Changing milk replacer during rearing is likely to cause dietary problems.(B157.w10)
  • Rearing at one site then moving to another site just before release is NOT recommended.(B152)
  • Cubs may start being aggressive and biting by May/June, particularly males, as in the wild they would start to establish place in social group.(B152)
  • Risk of transfer of disease from area of origin to area of release.(B152)
  • Test for bovine tuberculosis prior to release (B152): N.B. there is no reliable skin test for badgers.(J60.2.w2)
  • Have general health check by veterinary surgeon prior to move to release pen.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Catac Feeding bottle: pet stores.
  • Goat's milk: health food stores, supermarkets.
  • Esbilac canine milk replacer (Pet Ag, Kruus UK Ltd., Unit 17, Moor Lane Industrial Estate, Sherburn in Elmet, North Yorkshire, LS25 6ES; Pet-AG Inc., Elgin, Illinois, USA) from pet stores.
  • Lactol milk replacer for small mammals (Sherley's Division, Ashe Consumer Products Ltd., Leatherhead, Surrey, UK.)
  • Abidec (Parke-Davis): from chemists.
  • Vetrumex: farm supply merchants.
  • Catac Feeding bottle: from pet stores.
  • Artificial sett prior to release: may need to be constructed.
  • Vionate: E.R. Squibb and Sons Limited, Animal Health Division, Regal House, Twickenham, Middlesex.
  • Complan: H J Heinz Co Ltd, Hayes, Middlesex, UB4 8AL
  • Lamlac (Volac): from feed merchants.
  • Milupa (Milupa, White Horse Business Park, Trowbridge, WILTS BA14 0XB)
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • It is strongly recommended that juveniles of this species are transferred to expert individuals or organisations such as RSPCA wildlife hospitals, National Federation of Badger Groups or Secret World Wildlife Rescue, as rearing and successful release requires considerable expertise and specialised pre-release accommodation.
  • While rearing by inexperienced persons may result in a physically healthy juvenile, the chance of survival after release may be seriously reduced if expert techniques have not been correctly applied and the cub becomes tame or does not develop appropriate social skills.
Cost/ Availability
  • Considerable investment in time is required for proper rearing and release.
  • The overall investment in supplies may be significant.
  • The cost of constructing suitable pre-release accommodation may be considerable.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Hand-rearing should not be started unless the carer is prepared to give the time and effort required for rearing to release, or to ensure that appropriate care will be continued through to release.
  • Consider whether hand-rearing is the best option for the individual compared with leaving it in the wild.
  • Consider whether euthanasia is a more humane/kinder option for the individual than attempting hand-rearing.
  • An offence may be committed under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960 Section 1 if a released animal does not have a reasonable chance of survival (i.e. a chance similar to its non-rehabilitated peers). It is an offence under this Act for a person having control or charge of an animal to abandon it permanently or otherwise in circumstances likely to cause unnecessary suffering. This may include release at an unsuitable site, in the wrong territory, unfit, not having learned to hunt, at the wrong time of year etc. (J35.147.w1, B156.21.w21, B223, W5.Jan01)
  • No licence is required for translocation or release.
  • Care in selecting a site is important to minimise the risk of conflict with established groups of badgers.
  • Prior consultation with the relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Agency and Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods before translocation or release is recommended.
  • Permission should be sought from the landowner prior to release.
  • There is a risk of translocation of disease between areas of the country; this may be minimised by ensuring all cubs are health-checked and, in particular, tuberculosis tested.
  • It is particularly important to take precautions to avoid introducing TB into an area in which the disease is not already present in badgers. It is not advisable to translocate badger cubs from areas with a high prevalence of tuberculosis to areas with a low prevalence of this disease.
  • Badgers are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. Under this act it is an offence to take badgers from the wild, although there is an exception in the case of taking a disabled individual for the purpose of tending it. However, it is illegal to disturb a badger sett and no provision is made under this act for disturbing a sett in order to rescue orphaned cubs.
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties for further information on legislation relating to badgers.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

Return to Top of Page