A Badger Trust guest article from Alex White
From an early age, I’ve always been interested in wildlife. My family enjoys the outdoors from walking the dog to scuba diving and wildlife watching, so it’s no surprise that I followed in their footsteps.
My parents first took me badger watching when I was three years old and from the very first time I saw a black and white face appear from under the ground I was hooked.
I’m lucky enough to have a badgers sett close to my house and over the years I’ve spent many hours, watching both in-person and remotely using a trail camera.
The sett is a typical badger sett to look at, in woodland full of bluebells. Tall oak trees surround large spoil heaps with patches of brambles guarding some of the entrances.
The sett comprises of around 70 holes with about 10 active at any one time.
Foxes, rabbits, wood mice and rats also share these entrances. The badgers and foxes co-exist, sharing tunnels when bringing up their young.
To the edge of the sett lies a rabbit warren which as well as the normal brown bunnies live two black melanistic rabbits.
The most badgers I’ve seen here is 12 together at once. This number varies throughout the year as new cubs arrive, yearling disperse and on occasion badgers pass away.
I started using an identification sheet where I would draw markings, shapes of tails and injuries down, also noting which badger hung about with certain other badgers. This was made easier by taking photos or looking through trail camera footage. It got to the stage where I could identify particular badgers and start to note their different personalities.
I began to name the badgers mainly because it was easier than saying “the badger with the torn left ear”.
I named the badgers in relation to their physical appearance such as ‘Pirate’ whose right eye didn’t reflect in the trail camera footage or ‘Stick’ whose tail was long, thin and not very fluffy. But Cookie was the badger I built up the best relationship with. She was named Cookie as she had a chunk out of her ear. She started seeking out my trail camera and taking selfies even when I moved it around. On occasions, when I was stood at the edge of the sett she would come up and rub against my boots as if she was scent marking me.
Unfortunately, in 2016 Cookie was hit by a car, leaving orphaned cubs which were luckily adopted by another female from the clan, and with supplement feeding they survived.
Around 5 years ago I joined my local badger group and over those years I’ve really enjoyed joining in with sett surveying, helping out on stalls and fun days, rescuing badgers as well as even getting a chance to go out on a vaccination morning.
Cookie lives on as the face of Oxfordshire Badger Group.
I’ve also enjoyed following the work the Badger Trust does and it has been an honour to have appeared on a number of panels and talks alongside the CEO of the Badger Trust, Dominic Dyer and other young badger enthusiasts such as James Millar and Georgia Locock.
Recently I have published a wildlife book called Get Your Boots On.
The book is aimed at encouraging more people and especially young people to spend more time outdoors discovering the wildlife on their doorstep.
Get Your Boots On contains plenty of tips and advice to getting outdoors with simple and low-cost ways that people can enjoy nature from not only me but a host of well-known contributors.
I also share many of my favourite photos of wildlife, although during editing the publisher did say there were too many photos of badgers, which I did had to concede to.