This section is from the book "Creatures Of The Night: A Book Of Wild Life In Western Britain", by Alfred W. Rees. Also available from Amazon: Creatures Of The Night: A Book Of Wild Life In Western Britain.
During the mother badger's absence from home, an unlooked-for event — almost the exact repetition of an incident in the training of Vulp, the young fox—had happened in the education of her cubs. Her mate, hunting in an upland fallow, had been surprised by a poacher, and, long before daybreak, had discreetly returned to the "set." The success he had met with had enabled him to feed to repletion, so he was not tempted by the dead rabbit carried home by the mother and left in the chamber. Fearing to leave his hiding place, he wisely determined to devote the time at his disposal, before settling to sleep, to his children's instruction. With a grunt like that of the mother when she greeted her offspring, he at once aroused the slumbering youngsters, and then, heedless of their attentions, as, mistaking him for the dam, they pressed at his side, he laid hold of the rabbit and dragged it into a far corner. Full of curiosity, the cubs followed, but with well assumed anger he drove them away. As if in keen anticipation of a feast, he tore the dead animal into small pieces which he placed together on the floor of the chamber. This task complete, he retired to his accustomed resting place, and listened while the cubs, overcoming their timidity, ventured nearer and nearer to the dismembered rabbit, till, suddenly smelling the fresh blood, they gave way to inborn passion, and buried their teeth in the lifeless flesh. An inevitable quarrel ensued; Brock and his companions could not agree on the choice of tit-bits, and a medley of discordant grunts and squeals seemed to fill the chamber, though now and again it partly subsided, as two or three of the cubs, having fixed on the same portion of the rabbit, tugged and strained for its possession—so intent on the struggle that they dared not waste their breath in useless wrangling.
The old badger, satisfied that his progeny gave excellent promise of pluck and strength, was almost dropping off contentedly to sleep, when one of the excited combatants, retreating from the fray, backed unceremoniously, and awoke him with an accidental blow on the ribs. This was more than the crusty sire could endure, and he administered such prompt and indiscriminate chastisement to the youngsters, that, in a subdued frame of mind, they forgot their differences, forgot also the toothsome remnants of their feast, and nestled together in bed, desiring much that their patient dam would come to console them for the ill-usage just received.
On returning to the "set," the mother badger stayed for a few minutes at the edge of the mound before the main entrance, and, rearing herself on her hind-legs, rubbed her cheek against a tree-trunk, and sniffed the air for the scent of a lurking enemy. Then, satisfied that all was safe, she entered the deep chamber, and was greeted by the little creatures that for an hour had expectantly awaited her arrival. Unusually boisterous in their welcome, they instantly disregarded the presence of their sire; and such, already, was the magic effect of the meal of raw flesh on their tempers, that, with an eagerness hitherto unknown, they followed every movement of their dam, till, submitting to their importunities, she lay beside them, and fed and fondled them to sleep.
Almost nightly, she brought something new with which to tempt their appetites— young bank-voles dug from their burrows on the margin of the wood, weakling pigeons dropped from late nests among the leafy boughs, snakes, and lizards, and, chiefly, suckling rabbits unearthed from the shallow holes which the does had " stopped" with soil thrown back into the entrance when they left to feed amid the clover.
Though young rabbits, in breeding " stops " barely a foot below the level of the ground, were never safe from the badger's attack, a flourishing colony dwelt within the precincts of the "set." Early in spring, when the badgers were preparing for their expected family, a doe rabbit, attracted by the great commotion caused by their efforts to remove the big heap of soil thrown up at the entrance to their dwelling, hopped quietly out of the fern, and sat for a long time watching from between the bushes the occasional showers of loam which indicated the progress of the work. Judged by the standard of a rabbit, Bunny was a fairly clever little creature, and the plans she formed as she hid in the undergrowth seemed to show that she possessed unusual forethought. She waited and watched for several nights, till the badgers had ceased to labour, and the mound before the " set" remained apparently untouched. Then, one evening, after she had seen the badgers go off together into the heart of the wood, she entered, and moved along the gallery, pausing here and there to touch the walls with her sensitive muzzle. Coming to a place where a stone was slightly loosened, she began to dig a shaft almost at right angles to the roomy gallery, and for a time continued her work undisturbed; but an hour or so before dawn she retired to sleep in a thicket, some distance beyond the plain, wide trail marking the badger's movements to and from the nearest fields.
The badgers, on returning home, were sorely puzzled at the change that had taken place during their absence. To all appearance, a trick had been played on them, for, whereas their house had been left neat and tidy at dusk, there was now a pile of earth obstructing the main passage. However, they accepted the situation philosophically, and completed the rabbit's work by clearing the gallery and adding to the heap beyond the entrance.
Night after night, the wily rabbit watched for the badgers' departure, carried on her work, and gave them a fresh task for the early morning, till a short but winding burrow, some depth below the level of the ground, formed an antechamber where the little family to which she presently gave birth was reared in safety.
Though the badgers, aware that the shallow " stops" in the woods were more easily unearthed than this deeper burrow near the mouth of the "set," did not seek to disturb their neighbours, the mother rabbit, directly her family grew old enough to leave the nest, became increasingly vigilant, and, when about to lead them to or from their dwelling, was ever careful to be satisfied that all was quiet in the chambers and the galleries below. Generally she ventured abroad before the badgers awoke from the day's sleep, came back during their absence, and once more stole out to feed when they had returned and were resting in their snuggery. The danger that lurked in her surroundings supplied a special excitement to life, and she never heard without fear the ominous sounds that vibrated clearly through every crack and cranny when the badgers occasionally arose from their couch, stretched their cramped limbs, shook their rough grey coats, and grunted with satisfaction at the feeling of health and strength which nearly all wild animals delight occasionally to express.