Badgers & Relatives

Badgers belong to a large group of mammals called the “mustelids�? that includes other well known animals such as the Otter, Weasel and Mongoose. In Lebanon there are 6 species recorded. They are difficult to see, as they come out at night and many are rare and found only in the wilder places e.g. the Otter. However, the Stone Martin is common and has been seen by the author in Ras Beirut!

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A Badger in Captivity at Animal Encounter.

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(Meles meles canescens)

Status: Badgers are scarce and secretive mammals in Lebanon.

Description: Large Mustelids (head and body measure approximately 64 cm), Badgers are heavily built with short legs. Their facial pattern is distinctive, with two darker stripes running longitudinally through the eyes, and a whitish central stripe running from the center of the forehead to the nose. Local populations have a rusty-red coat, as opposed to the more typical black, gray and white coat. Their tails are short and blunt, their snouts are long and their ears are small and short, usually with light-colored tips.

Habitat: Badgers favor mixed deciduous woodlands with openings in the vegetation. Badgers build elaborate underground dwellings called “setts�?. The sett typically has a number of entrances and connecting tunnels running several meters, and is usually built on a steep slope among tree roots.

Habits: Badgers are mostly nocturnal. They are omnivorous and opportunistic foragers feeding on such things as earthworms, beetles, caterpillars, wasps, bird eggs, voles, moles, bulbs, fruits, nuts, and even cereal crops. They tend to be highly communal, living in groups from 2 to 25 adults, sharing the same sett, grooming each other and communicating through various snorts, growls, moans and screams. Breeding typically in March, like the Stone Martin they have delayed implantation so that young are born the following spring. Litter size ranges from one to five.

Distribution: Widely distributed throughout Europe and Asia, their Middle-Eastern range remains in the northern countries of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.


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A Stone Martin in Captivity at Animal Encounter.

Stone Martin

(Martes foina syriaca)

Status: This member of the Mustelid family is common and can be seen, mostly at night, in villages.

Description: The Stone Martin is a medium-sized Mustelid (head and body measure approximately 41 cm), with a slender build, full bushy tail, pointed muzzle and large, prominent ears. Its coat is gray-brown in winter, becoming duller brown towards summer, with a whitish throat patch.

Habitat: Seen mostly at night in and around villages, the Stone Martin likely spends its days in the deciduous woodlands and rocky areas along the hillsides, or perhaps even within houses. Stone Martins make their dens in rock crevices, tree holes, barns and houses.

Habits: Stone Martins are highly versatile and adaptable predators and are strictly nocturnal. They are largely carnivorous, eating small mammals, birds, eggs, reptiles, amphibians and large insects. However, Stone Martins are also known to eat small fruits and berries and even vegetable matter. They are mostly solitary, but may feed in groups of four to five. They breed in the summer months, but implantation of the fertilized egg into the womb is delayed from 230-275 days so that the young are born the following spring. Litter size varies from one to eight individuals.

Distribution: Stone Martins are widely distributed in Europe, Russia, Asia Minor, Afghanistan, northern India, China and Mongolia. In the Middle East they are only found in the northern countries of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Palestine.

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A Common Otter in the wild.

Common Otter

(Lutra lutra seistanica)

Status: Very rare in Lebanon but known to breed in the Bekaa wetlands and in the Chouf reserve.

Description: The Common Otter is recognized by its long slender body (head and body measure approximately 72 cm), short legs, long tail, thick muzzle and short ears. All four feet are webbed. Fur color varies both regionally and depending on the time of year.

Habitat: Usually the Common Otter is found in fresh water habitats with suitable vegetation cover such as reeds or tree-covered banks. They live in a dwelling called a “holt�?, which is a cavity in river bank, or between roots or rocks.

Habits: Otters are mostly nocturnal, but may be active during the daytime as well. With the ability to stay underwater for up to eight minutes, fish make up the majority of their food. Occasionally, Otters will feed on other vertebrates such as water birds, rats, or amphibians, as well as invertebrates including crabs, worms and insects. Adults are mostly solitary and communication is limited to a sharp whistle. Breeding takes place year round, with litter size ranging from one to five.

Distribution: Common Otters are widely distributed but rare in Europe and Asia. They also occur in Asia Minor, Iran, southern India, Sri Lanka and Java. In the Middle East they are limited mainly to Palestine and Iraq and Lebanon.