How flooding can impact the lives of badgers after Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis in February 2020 ©Jo Bates-Keegan
How flooding impacts the lives of UK badgers
The extent of flooding caused by recent storms could be having a devastating impact on badgers. From loss or damage to badger setts, to difficulties finding food in flood-affected habitats, life will be harder for badger clans throughout the UK.
Late winter storms – like Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis in February 2020 – come at the worst time; new-born badger cubs are underground, so unless the sow can get them out (she does this by grabbing them in her mouth one by one) sadly they will drown.
What happens to badgers when a sett is flooded?
Where badger setts have been damaged or flooded completely, whole badger clans could be disturbed and have to move. Badgers in floodplains do get used to it as they are born to that way of life, having to move from their setts and find higher ground, even hollowed-out trees. However, prolonged flooding, more regular floods, and floods seen in areas not normally subject to them may have a bigger impact on previously unaffected badgers not used to these conditions.
How will badgers feed in flooded areas?
Badgers will, if they make it to dry ground, have much less foraging ground available. They are very opportunistic and will eat carrion and those animals that may not have made it. They will also break open wood and bark where they can find insects, such as woodlice.
In 2019, when checking on floodplains after a flood event, I sadly found a dead emaciated badger. Years ago my dad had an experience of finding flooded-out badgers in a tree, and some marooned on an island.
What is the effect of severe weather events on badgers?
According to the Met Office, “Several indicators show that the UK’s climate is becoming wetter,” with its projections showing a trend towards wetter winters and drier summers on average in the UK. And even in summer flash flooding can occur when heavy bursts of rain hit parched ground. The after-effect of flooding can be devastating for humans – sadly it is for the UK badger population and a whole range of wildlife too.
Flooded land in November 2019 after the heaviest recorded autumn rainfall ©Tris Pearce
Author: Tris Pearce MCIEEM MRSB, Director/Trustee, Badger Trust