Asian badgers (Meles leucurus) range widely throughout the temperate regions of eastern Europe and Asia. Their range extends from eastern Russia to China and is bordered in the south by the Himalayas. The western boundary of their range is the Ural-Volga region of Russia, along which, they are sympatric with European badgers (Meles meles).
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )
Asian badgers have a stocky, somewhat wedge-shaped body. Their limbs are short, with strong elongated claws (22 to 26 mm) that are well-adapted for digging. The average size and mass of Asian badgers varies regionally. Those found in Siberia are larger than those from the far-Eastern part of the range. Their mass also varies throughout the year, peaking in the fall before hibernation. Males are generally larger, but there is variation in the degree of sexual dimorphism between different populations.
The pelage of Asian badgers is dense and coarse. They are generally grayish-silver with a white face and dark brown or black stripes running over each eye. They exhibit a range of regional pelage coloration. Specimens from Mongolia have a relatively lighter coat, while those from the Amur region are particularly dark in color. In addition, mountain inhabitants are almost always darker than those of the plains.
Range mass: 3.5 to 9 kg.
Range length: 49.5 to 70 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Asian badgers occupy a diverse range of habitats. They are found in deciduous, coniferous and mixed forests, as well as mountainous regions, steppes, semi-deserts, and tundra. In forested areas they often dig burrows on the south-facing slopes of ravines, where the snow melts earlier. They prefer areas with well-drained soil. In steppe regions they often occupy gullies. They may burrow in the banks of coastal lakes, as well as near the bottom of sand dunes. They always stay near a water source. In the Caucasus Mountains, they range vertically from sea level to the alpine meadows.
Range elevation: Sea level to 3000 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; forest ; mountains
Habitat and Ecology
This species is an opportunistic forager with an omnivorous diet, including fruit, nuts, bulbs, tubers, acorns, and cereal crops. It also consumes a variety of invertebrates (especially earthworms), wasp and bee nests, birds' eggs, carrion, and live vertebrate prey such as mice, voles, hedgehogs and mole. In the northern parts of its range the species hibernates during the winter months.
Asian badgers are omnivorous and consume a wide variety of foods, including earthworms, insects, mammals, reptiles, birds, frogs, mollusks, berries, pine nuts, and other plant material. Regional badger diet is based largely on availability. Throughout much of its range, earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris) are the most common food source. Insects make up the majority of the Asian badger's diet in more arid regions, such as Mongolia. A population on Bol’shoi Chukhtinskii Island in Russia may subsist largely on pine nuts. They have also been known to prey on young livestock.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; fish; eggs; insects; mollusks; terrestrial worms
Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit
Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore , Vermivore); herbivore (Granivore )
Members of genus Meles are commonly parasitized by fleas (Paraceras melis), lice (Trichodectes melis), and ticks (Ixodes), and to a lesser degree, mites. No specific information is available for M. leucurus.
- fleas (Paraceras melis)
- lice (Trichodectes melis)
- ticks (Ixodes)
Asian badger cubs may be preyed upon by lynxes, wolves, and wolverines, where their ranges overlap. Adult badgers are not known to have predators.
- lynxes (Lynx lynx)
- wolves (Canis lupus)
- wolverines (Gulo gulo)
Life History and Behavior
Badgers of the genus Meles have a relatively high count of rod to cone cells. In addition, they have a tapetum which reflects light back through the retina. These features aid in night vision. The eyes of Meles badgers are relatively small for nocturnal mammals. This indicates that eyesight may be of less importance to the animal than other senses. Meles badgers have an extremely well developed sense of smell. Scroll bones in the nasal cavity provide a large surface area for sensory epithelia.
Little is known about hearing in Meles badgers. They produce a large variety of noises covering a wide range of frequencies. These noises may be useful in communication.
Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
There is no data available on the lifespan of M. leucurus in the wild or in captivity. Meles meles, a close relative, may reach 15 years in the wild; however, it is fairly unusual for individuals to exceed 10 years. The oldest known captive M. meles was 19 1/2 years.
Asian badgers can mate year-round and fertilization can occur at any time, but cubs are generally only born between mid-January and mid-March. This is achieved through delayed implantation.
Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)
Badgers of the genus Meles give birth once per year, usually between mid-January and mid-March. Mating occurs primarily in the spring. Mating and fertilization may occur throughout the year, but implantation is delayed. There is no data available specific to M. leucurus.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 5.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 13 to 14 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 12 to 15 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; delayed implantation
Badgers of genus Meles show alloparental behavior, where related individuals help raise the young. These relatives may chase the young into the den when they are threatened, or chase away predators. There is no data available for M. leucurus, specifically.
Parental Investment: female parental care
Current information on population trends is not available for M. leucurus.
US Federal List: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
There is evidence of Asian badgers preying upon livestock, calves and foals. They are also attracted to grapes in vineyards, and may damage fences to access them.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
Asian badger's hair is used for various types of brushes. Their hide is used to make rugs and leatherwork.
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material
Asian badgers are mostly lighter in colour than European badgers, though some forms may closely approach the former species in colour, if not darker, with smudges of ocherous and brownish highlights. The flanks are lighter than the middle of the back, and the facial stripes are usually brown rather than black. Unlike the facial stripes of European badgers, those of Asian badgers narrow behind their eyes and extend above the ears. The white parts of the head are usually dirtier in colour than those of European badgers. The light stripe passing along the top of the head between the two stripes is relatively short and narrow. They are generally smaller than their European cousins, and have relatively longer upper molars.
Five subspecies are recognised.
|Common sand badger|
Meles leucurus leucurus
Meles leucurus amurensis
|Schrenck, 1859||The darkest coloured and smallest subspecies. The facial stripes extend above the ears, and are black or blackish-brown in colour. The entire area between the stripes and cheeks are dirty-greyish brown, as opposed to white. The colour can be so dark, that the stripes are almost indistinguishable. The back is greyish-brown with silver highlights. The pelage itself is soft, but is lacking in wool. The skull is small, smooth and has weakly developed projections. It lacks first premolars. Body length is 60–70 centimetres (24–28 in)||Ussuri, Priamurye, Greater Khingan and Korean Peninsula||melanogenys (J. A. Allen, 1913)|
schrenkii (Nehring, 1891)
Meles leucurus arenarius
|Satunin, 1895||A moderately sized subspecies, being intermediate in size between Meles m. meles and Meles m. canascens. Its colour is lighter and paler than its northern cousins, with less prominent facial stripes. Its pelage is coarse and bristly, and has scarce underfur. Boars grow to 70–78 centimetres (28–31 in) in body length, while sows grow to 61–70 centimetres (24–28 in). Boars weigh 7.8–8.3 kilograms (17–18 lb) in March–May, and 5.6–7 kilograms (12–15 lb) in March–June||Southeastern Volga, most of Kazakhstan (excepting the northern and montane parts), the Middle Asian plains (excepting the regions occupied by Meles m. canascens and Meles m. severzovi)|
Meles leucurus sibiricus
|Kastschenko, 1900||A moderately sized subspecies, being intermediate in size between Meles m. meles and Meles m. canascens. The general colour tone of the back is light grey, usually with yellowish or straw coloured highlights. The facial stripes are brownish-black to tawny black. The pelage is long and soft with a dense undercoat. Boars grow to 65.7–75 centimetres (25.9–30 in) in body length, while sows grow to 62–69.2 centimetres (24–27.2 in). Boars weigh 10–13.6 kilograms (22–30.0 lb)||Siberia, including Transbaikalia and Altai, northern Kazakhstan and probably the eastern Volga|
|Tien Shan badger|
Meles leucurus tianschanensis
|Hoyningen-Huene, 1910||A moderately sized subspecies, with a somewhat darker pelt than Meles l. arenarius and a less developed yellow sheen. The fur is longer, denser and fluffier||Northern Tien Shan||talassicus (Ognev, 1931)|
Distribution and habitat
Asian badgers have a large range including the southern portion of Russia east of the Urals, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, and Korea. The species can be found within areas of high elevation (perhaps up to 4,000 metres (13,000 ft)) in the Ural Mountains, the Tian Shan mountains, and the Tibetan Plateau. The ranges of Asian and European badgers are separated in places by the Volga River. Asian badgers prefer open deciduous woodland and adjacent pastureland, but also inhabit coniferous and mixed woodlands, scrub and steppe. They are sometimes found in suburban areas.
Asian badgers are legally hunted in China, Russia and Mongolia, as well as illegally within protected areas in China. Russia's established badger hunting season, usually takes place from August to November.
- Abramov, A. & Wozencraft, C. (2008). "Meles leucurus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
- Wilson, Don E.; Reeder, DeeAnn M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed). Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
- Heptner & Sludskii 2002, p. 1251
- Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Heptner & Sludskii 2002, pp. 1260–1262
- Heptner & Sludskii 2002, pp. 1257–1258
- Heptner & Sludskii 2002, pp. 1256–1257
- Heptner, V. G.; Sludskii, A. A. (2002). Mammals of the Soviet Union. Vol. II, part 1b, Carnivores(Mustelidae). Washington, D.C. : Smithsonian Institution Libraries and National Science Foundation. ISBN 90-04-08876-8