Thursday 11th October, 2018
Badgers in the UK have a chequered
and colourful history - with this distinctive black and white nocturnal mammal loved
by many, hated by some. The problem is the same for many of our native
predators, which if you look back, in the past have all been persecuted at some
point with bounties offered for killing them. In the early 1900’s there were
over 20,000 gamekeepers in the UK and part of their job was to control predators
or vermin as many of our native species were labelled - anything from corvids, the
crow family, to mustelids, the weasel family including badgers. Foxes and birds
of prey were treated equally as harshly with some of these species made extinct
in this country and many others, such as the polecat, reduced to small,
Throughout the last century numbers were reduced considerably with badgers sadly disappearing completely in some regions. However, following the First World War there was a noticeable reduction in the number of gamekeepers, which led to some species beginning to recover. In 1973 the Badgers Act was passed making it an offence to intentionally kill or injure a badger or to interfere with a sett, which helped numbers grow. However, in more recent years, the biggest issue for the badger is traffic, which has a big impact on all of our native species. As our landscape is being divided by more and more roads and with increasing amounts of vehicles, we are of course seeing more badgers killed in this way. The current figures are believed to be about 50,000 badger deaths a year on our roads, with the current population only numbering around 250,000.
Here at Feadon Farm we are extremely privileged to have four setts on the site, getting to observe these magnificent animals regularly with our Badger Watch experiences. With its one-way glass, visitors can book to come and sit in our warm, dry badger hide and enjoy a hot drink and cake, watch video footage from previous nights visits whilst waiting for the real thing to arrive. When the badgers make an appearance it always amazes me how many people say they have never seen a live badger before – having only seen them dead on the side of the road.
Just this week our visitors got to observe three adult badgers and two cubs feeding outside the hide for nearly an hour with some badger bickering and even some mutual grooming to keep us entertained. On a recent night walk at Feadon Farm the group spotted a badger climbing into some brambles and eating the blackberries, which was also a wonderful scene to witness. Badgers will in fact eat a whole variety of foods from earth worms, baby rabbits, mice, voles, carrion, wheat, maze through to apples, strawberries and much more. On one occasion a friend of mine was rabbit shooting at night and after hitting one, before he could retrieve it, a badger rushed out of the hedge and made off with it and this is very typical behaviour of an opportunistic forager like the badger. I saw on Spring Watch that a badger swam across to an island to get avocet’s chicks and know they have been recorded at deer carcass and even eating dead fish on the side of a lake – so voracious foragers.
If you are wondering why I haven’t mentioned the TB issue, well I feel people who are far more eloquent than me have said it all before. My main message as always, is that if you have any issues or gripes with any of our native animals, why not take some time to learn about them before passing judgement.
What to look out for: it’s a great time to look out for badgers, jays and other species as they try to put on weight or build up food stores ready for the winter.
Come on a Badger Watch at Feadon Farm! Click here to find out more