Covid 19 - Cub Rescue Challenge!

Updated: Apr 25

Over the Easter weekend, I received a text from a lady who had been out running as part of her Coronavirus once-a-day exercise and found a small badger cub laying in the track of a small wooded area of RAF Wattisham in Suffolk.

badger cub found laying on track

After giving it water and some cat food the cub was encouraged to move off the track and into the grass. Whilst observing from a distance to see if the mum would return, the lady saw a dog walker who suggested the cub was there at least 30 minutes earlier and was calling, presumably for its mum, but to no avail.

The decision was taken as it was now dark for the lady to return first thing in the morning and check if the cub was still there, giving it's mum a chance to collect it as it was only around 20 metres away from the sett. However, in the morning the cub was still laying in the grass, motionless but breathing, so things were put in place for me to meet at the security gates and, whilst observing two-metre social distancing, obtain the necessary photographs and ID checks to be allowed onto the RAF base. Once through the security checks, it was a short drive following the lady on her pushbike to the location. “Vicky” kept apologising in case she had wasted my time, and I must admit when I arrived the cub was completely still, its chest was not even lifting so I assumed the worst. But as I lifted the cub it did a wee(!), so this was enough for me to give the little boy a second chance. He was quickly wrapped up in some cloth and placed in a carrier whilst I made my way back out of the security compound.

A quick call to North East Essex Badger Group prime carer, “Judy”, then brought on the next challenge as she was self-isolating. It was decided that when I arrived I would place the cage on her front lawn and open it up and then step back, allowing Judy to retrieve the flea-ridden cub. However, again as Judy checked the cub over the fleas seemed to be jumping ship and I think Judy thought I had brought her a cub to bury. Thankfully it then took an intake of breath, so it was ‘all stations go’ on the recovery process.

The first job was to deal with the fleas, at the same time placing the cub on a heat mat wrapped with blankets. Every few minutes Judy would use a hairdryer and blow warm air over the badger cub to try and get some heat into the lifeless body. Next, Judy rigged up some warm fluids, which were fed into the badger under its skin, the bag hanging from a shower and the basin used to see and remove the escaping ticks and fleas!

badger cub rescued and de-flead

Judy didn’t get any sleep as you can imagine for the next two days as she battled to get the badger cub’s temperature stable and eventually get some rehydration fluids into it. These were gradually replaced by a mixture of homoeopathic rescue remedies, Esbilac puppy milk and Farley's rusks, and eventually, the badger cub began to respond.

After three days, and now clear of fleas and ticks, the cub was eating the mix from a bowl but had bad diarrhoea – which I was regularly thanked for when I called for an update! – but by day five I was being sent videos of the cub chasing toilet roll middles and charging stuffed toys just as a young badger with attitude should. He was now more solid however, he needed company.

rescue badger cub chasing toilet rolls

After calling Simon Cowell at Wildlife Aid rescue in Surrey, it was decided that I would collect the cub and take it to him. Again I placed the empty open carrier on the lawn, allowing Judy to put the wrapped-up sleeping cub inside and to retreat with me closing the cage before he woke up.

This was a week after being found and Simon had already had three other cubs which had been recently admitted. With surgical gloves and facemasks donned, the cub was handed over and checked by the team; he then had one ear painted purple so he could be later identified. It was such a delight to see the tiny cub placed at the entrance of the box containing the three others and then watch as he paused before clambering in amongst the others to go to sleep.

Ideally, the cub would have been taken back to the sett and given the chance to see if the mum would retrieve it, but due to the security checks at RAF Wattisham and Covid-19 restrictions, this was the next best thing. Wildlife Aid rescue will now take over the rehabilitation for these cubs and aim to see their eventual release in the autumn, so thank you to Simon and the team for caring for all the wildlife they receive.

Adrian Hinchliffe

North East Essex Badger Group committee member and the Suffolk badger Mammal Group Co-ordinator.