18 March 2016

Crossing paths with a Badger

Most people can identify a Badger, though many will never have seen a live one in the wild. But whilst you may not see Mr Brock himself you might find your paths cross more often than you'd think.

Badger (Meles meles)
Photo: P.Trimming via Geograph
Like most wild creatures Badgers don't want to be disturbed and this post is certainly not encouraging anyone to go poking around looking for their setts. To be clear, Badgers and Badger Setts are, quite rightly, protected by law. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1992/51/contents

Historically humans and badgers have not had a good relationship. Badger baiting has been illegal since the 19th century, yet it still takes place and there are humans that consider such cruelty to be a sport. The badger cull in England has provoked huge debate and controversy; the aim being to prevent the spread of bTB (Bovine Tuberculosis) to cattle and other farm animals. The Welsh Government has taken a different approach and it must be hoped that the kinder strategy of vaccinating badgers against the disease will prove to be effective.

Badgers are nocturnal, so sadly we are most likely to be familiar with seeing them dead by the side of the road. Most of us will not have the chance to see the live animal but it is still exciting when out for a walk to spot where a badger's hair has caught on a fence and to know they are not far away and still alive and well.
Badger hair caught on fence
Badger hair caught on fence
Photo: M.Malcher 2016
There are other signs to look out for too, this is a badger's track in the mud:
Badger Track in the mud
Photo J.Buck via Geograph
Some time ago my apiary trail camera took a video of a badger passing by my beehives. I'd known there was a sett nearby so not a big surprise. It was good to see him ambling along in the dark. Although they've never given me a major beekeeping problem, a badger can turn over a beehive with no trouble at all, if they've a mind to do so. Sometimes they do! Once or twice over the years I've found large scratches on hive fronts and on the alighting boards where the bees land, but nothing too serious.

I have crossed badger paths a couple of times recently, both times on public footpaths, not far from Woking town.  I know where they live and it's good to know they are there; I'll keep an eye out for them. Badgers deserve and need our protection.

Further information (links open in new window):
West Surrey Badger Group
Badger Trust