Nature Note

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The Independent Online
Badgers do not really hibernate, in the sense of going to sleep for the whole winter. But they do have a biological mechanism that allows their body temperature to sink to a low level, thus reducing their need for food and enabling them to remain underground for long periods at this time of year, comfortably rolled up in the hay, leaves and other bedding with which they lined their sleeping chambers in autumn. Another physical peculiarity, which badgers share with roe deer and weasels, is that of delayed implantation. Sows may mate with boars at any time of year, but their fertilised eggs do not start to develop in the womb until late in December, so that litters always arrive in early spring. Cubs are being born now, blind and almost naked. Their eyes will open after five weeks or so, but they will not emerge from their setts until the end of March or early April. The saddest fact about badgers, of course, is that they carry bovine tuberculosis, and spread the disease among cattle; yet, even after years of research, scientists still do not understand exactly how infection is transmitted between the two species.

Duff Hart-Davis