Badgers in Spain
Badgers are found throughout mainland Spain from the green forests of the Cantabrica to the semi-desert scrubs of Almeria , but are absent from the Canaries and the Balearics. Although not generally considered a high-montane animal, they have been detected as high as 2300m in La Cerdanya in the Catalan Pyrenees. Though not uncommon, badger populations are not as dense in Spain as they are, for example, in the UK , which has possibly the highest concentrations in the world, and hence such a strong place in British folklore.. This is partly because of the relative scarcity of protein-rich earthworms. (see below) Average badger densities vary depending on who you read: Purroy y Varela in ‘Mamiferos de España’ reckon on 1-2 badgers per square kilometre across Spain, while the encyclopaedic Juan Carlos Blanco in his ‘Mamiferos de España’ says the density of 0.5 badgers in Doñana is far above the national average. By way of comparison, Britain supports 4.4 to 20 individuals! Whatever the case, they are possibly higher concentrations in the north of Spain and certainly much lower ones in the drier south-east. They are not generally considered an urban species, though they are certainly, for example present on the city limits of Barcelona in Collserola. With the relative scarcity of earthworms, Spanish badgers will take anything they come across from snakes to blackberries, though when earthworms are present, they feature strongly on the menu. Beetles are a common intake. The great Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente mentions in Fauna Ibérica a badger killed by a car in Santander with 600 beetles dissolving in its stomach, while badgers down in Doñana have a liking for young rabbits.
The 19th naturalist, Mariano de la Paz Graells, classified the Spanish badger as a smaller and lighter sub species, marianensis , though this is not accepted by all researchers . The Latin name for badger meles , appears to come from its prediction for honey. This is reflected in a number of regional names in Spain (e.g. melandro in Asturias and melón in Aragón (see below). Iberian badgers don’t hibernate, although to the north they can grow rather lethargic during the winter months. Badger meat was until recently eaten in parts of Spain , and as everywhere its fur was used for shaving brushes. These days its main threats are snares, often put out for foxes, and traffic. Though not specifically protected outside parks, it is in fact an offense to kill a badger in Spain as only animals on the official hunting list can be shot. Spanish badger populations are thought to be declining, though adequate data to support this appears to be thin on the ground. Despite the huge list of regional names (see below), the animal is relatively unknown and almost absent from cultural references, unlike, say, the fox, the wolf, the boar and the bear.
An interesting piece of research on badgers was published in Conservation Biology (Feb. 2001), noting
“Reserves can threaten wildlife by attracting poachers”, that “ Doñana National Park is such a draw to poachers that there are fewer badgers just inside the reserve than in the area just outside it”. Poachers are lured by “the abundance of fearless game (deer and wild boars) attracts poachers who also kill non-game species incidentally. This could devastate badgers and other carnivores because they require large habitats and live at low densities.”
Badgers within the core area of the reserve were unaffected by poachers, and had benefited from protection.
A tejonera is a set. An escarvadura is its scratching place.
Badger eaten by wolf
I took these wolf watching in the Sierra de la Culebra.
A badger’s pawprint
The Iberianature guide to Spain