For the first time in 2016, last night I set out my trail cameras near the Hogsmeade badger sett. It appeared that over the last few weeks there had been some activity digging out sett entrances and whatnot. My mate Scott and I had recently discovered a scratching post near the sett and were keen to see if we could capture some of this activity on film.
Scratching posts are often found near sett entrances and there is some debate about the reason that badgers seem to relish scratching at old (usually Elder) trees – perhaps to stretch, to clean their claws, or event to sharpen them. You can find them by looking for deep, vertical scratches on trees near the sett, with the scratches reaching perhaps a metre (3 feet or so) up the tree, and running sometimes down to the ground.
Many years ago, when I first went on a badger survey course, I was told that these trees are called ‘Totem Trees’ and I have always called them that since. However, I can’t seem to find any reference to that on the internet, so perhaps it was a term colloquial to the badger group in Suffolk at the time that I was learning.
Other signs of badger activity include their trademark footprints – a kidney-bean shaped pad of the foot, with 5 little toes lined up above the ‘bean’. This will be with (front foot) or without (hind foot) long claws (there is a gap between the toe pad and the claw because they are so long!). The whole combination gives the impression that tiny little bears have been running around! The photos of prints in this post were taken when my friend Helen and I went to collect in the camera traps this morning, so clearly there was some activity last night. Near sett entrances and on fences or brambles, you may also find badger hairs, which have three different colour tones, and are non-circular in cross section – more triangular. Now, you won’t see this with the naked eye, but you can see the effect that it creates – roll the hair between your thumb and forefinger and you’ll feel it jump about rather than rolling smoothly. I did a slow motion video to show you:
(Having a bit of trouble with the embed code, so here’s the direct link to the video: https://www.instagram.com/p/BBFE6DHpV4h)
Incidentally, we had no badger activity on camera, in spite of it being a dry night. There could be a reason for this – as it is at this time of year (January & February) that badger cubs are born. It warms my cockles to think that under my feet the sow might be snuggled up preparing to give birth, or even nursing two or three new cubs. With ongoing monitoring, I hope to film the cubs in the early spring when they first start to venture from the sett, and will of course post on here when I do!
Anyway, the trail cams are out again tonight, so may have more to show you tomorrow!