Badger watching

For a while we kept seeing pictures of Badgers on various Facebook groups- this got us thinking.. Neither of us had seen a wild, live badger (not running away from a roadside). We contacted a lady called Beverley who had posted some incredible pictures of badgers to ask where she was seeing them. We actually said to her she could reply to us privately by message as giving away specific locations of badger setts is sadly not advisable. To our delight Beverley replied and invited us to venture a few of hours north of Dundee to go and see them with her!

A couple of days later we met Beverley and followed her car to the “Secret Location” to look for the elusive badgers..

We arrived at the area around 6.30pm and Beverley guided us down to the wooded area where she often sees the family of badgers. The sett is apparently quite extensive and there were multiple tunnel openings throughout the bushes opposite. On one of the trees opposite the tunnel complex Beverley put some peanut butter in a knoll, hoping it would entice the badgers out and sat patiently waiting.

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Someone enjoying a peanut or two..

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After waiting for a while without any sign of them we headed around the corner to an area out of the trees where Peter a photographer friend of Beverleys was set up. As we rounded the corner and looked up we saw a streak of white on black and a flash of movement! We scared it off! We all set ourselves up against a small hill facing the bushes it had trotted into and waited..

Sure enough a few moments later there was a little nose poking out and the badger came walking out into the clearing.

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What a sight! Theres something so beautiful about badgers- maybe the classic monochrome colouring or the way they look so slicked back- an adaptation to a life spent burrowing underground.

This animal was really relaxed and didn’t seem at all worried about us sitting just a short distance away- probably as a result of the peanuts that Peter had put down to it. It was such a privilege to see it just going about its business and eating, not running away from us.

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We got some pictures and then after a while put our cameras down and just enjoyed the viewing. After watching this individual for quite a while we decided to head back round to the other area and see if any of the youngsters had ventured out of the sett to explore. Luckily for us we saw a head pop up beside one of the tunnel entrances on our return- a few youngsters had emerged!

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We counted at least 4 individuals out at this area and it was brilliant to see them cavorting around together. At one point they were having a bit of a play fight and one was definitely winning the game. As you can perhaps tell from the images these animals were definitely much more timid and watchful than the older badger which was probably a result of being less accustomed to Peter and Beverley’s peanut sprinkling. As long as we were still and quiet they would stay within sight but didn’t come out from the tangle of bushes that provided them with cover. In a way it was quite reassuring to these younger badgers being wary of people, considering the danger they face in many locations.

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Badgers are still at huge risk of persecution; from the barbaric practice of “Badger baiting” to lawful culling as a means of trying to prevent the spread of bTB (bovine tuberculosis) amongst cattle (not in Scotland). The baiting of badgers has led to badger setts being protected by law and it is an offence to interfere with, damage or destroy a sett or feeding grounds as well as wilfully injure or kill a badger. Sadly legal protection cannot be expected to entirely prevent instances of illegal activity and this disgusting activity has seen a resurgence in some areas in recent years. If you hear of or suspect any illegal activity concerning badgers or other wildlife contact your local wildlife crime officer;

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Culling to prevent bovine TB has been a hot topic recently with the recent news that the cull is to be rolled out to 5 new English counties. We’ll be honest with you and admit that we wholeheartedly do not support the culling of badgers on the grounds of preventing bTB. The science points to it being not only ineffective but frankly unnesscary and we hope that it will be ruled out immediately. Here is a brilliant visual representation of the facts by the Badger Trust. The Republic of Ireland has recently commented that they plan to phase out badger culling and continue instead with vaccinating badgers against TB. Just as a side note, we do not wish farmers to lose their livelihoods however there is a clear need for the money currently wasted on killing badgers to be used to research bTB spread amongst cattle so that a more effective solution such as a bovine vaccine can be implemented. If you agree that the current UK cull of badgers must stop please head to this UK gov petition.

Tips for seeing badgers;

1.) If you don’t know of any areas to see badgers yourself you may have to ask individuals such as nature lovers/ wildlife photographers etc. If you want to connect with people like this a good way can be through your local Wildlife Trust group, RSPB group or as we mentioned Facebook groups for wildlife watchers. You can also volunteer with Scottish Badgers if you’re interested. Because of the risks that badgers face people will be hesitant to disclose locations publicly- rightly so! The animals safety should come first but don’t worry, if you persevere and talk to the right people making it clear you have only the best intentions for the animals someone will help you. Please, do not ever give away sett locations to people whose intentions you cannot be sure of.

2.) Not all badgers will be as comfortable with human interaction as the first adult we saw. The RSPCA reccomend feeding only small amounts of non-natural food (unsalted peanuts, lightly cooked meat and seasonal fruits) to prevent dependance, although they do say that supplementary feeding can be beneficial in long periods of cold or dry summers. Also don’t wear perfume and keep very still and quiet if you do see one!

3.) Tell your friends, post pictures and share the petition and hopefully we can save more of these native British mustelids!

Thanks for reading.

Kirsten and Elliot.

 

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