Let’s have a little chat about badgers. I mean, everybody loves badgers (except farmers – but that’s for another blog post). Lovely creatures, charismatic, strikingly handsome, social, playful and generally fascinating. They are nocturnal, and do most of their foraging at night.
What are they foraging for? Well, that depends entirely on the time of year, but general concensus is that their diet comprises primarily earthworms, supplemented by other foods as they become seasonably available (blackberries and elderberries in the autumn, frogs, small mammals – even rabbits). There is actually quite an impressive list of what badgers will eat, being spectacularly omnivorous. But let me tell you a few things that are (shocker) not on the list:
- Tins of Tuna
- Pots of Yogurt
- Raw chicken carcasses
- Whole cabbages
- Battered Chips with Mushy Peas
- Bombay Mix
- Curried Rice
These foods are not great for badgers (or other wildlife) because – well, how shall we put it – PIZZA DOESN’T GROW IN THE WILD.
Now, I realise that this is a slightly ranty blog post considering it is my first in a while, but I felt it necessary to share with you the fact that the above list of foods NOT to feed to badgers is IDENTICAL to a list of foods that have been left near badger setts that I monitor.
Observe, if you will, a (no doubt well-meaning) man emptying a carrier bag full of chicken carcass, tins of tuna and loaf of bread onto the ground in front of the badger sett. (This footage is sped up.) You may also notice that in just over 3 hours that food has mostly disappeared thanks to squirrels, foxes, dogs, crows, magpies and more. It doesn’t even GET to the badgers – and its a good thing, too!
Animals do a pretty good job of eating a ‘balanced diet’ (unlike we humans who for some reason require nutritionists). This is particularly the case with omnivorous animals like badgers. The do this ENTIRELY without our help. And, well, I know we love them and its nice to feed wildlife and to see them in the garden, but I’d urge you to think about what you’re feeding them, when you’re feeding it, how often, and where. Here’s why:
- It does not mimic their natural diet. This really is the main reason. Badgers shouldn’t eat pots of yogurt, and birds shouldn’t eat nutritionally void paninis and bombay mix. Anything you put out for wild animals needs to at least be similar to food sources that they would use in the wild – i.e. fruits, seeds and nuts. Bird seed and unsalted nuts are great things to put out for birds, and if you’re going to feed badgers, a small amount of unsalted peanuts or perhaps some seedless grapes is far more appropriate than manky chicken carcasses and chips with mushy peas. And bread for ducks, by the way, is an ABSOLUTE NO-NO. They become bloated with food of no nutritional value whatsoever, and then as a result don’t eat the food that IS good for them.
- Vermin and Parasite load increases. Placing food near sett entrances increases the number of rats, which go into the setts, increasing the parasite load in the bedding. High parasite load can then force badgers to disperse into outlier setts, or can mean that they need to spend extra energy changing bedding.
- Wild animals can come to rely on artificial feeding . If you are regularly feeding badgers either on a nature reserve or in your garden, they may come to rely on you, and during times when you are not there, they then lack their main food source.
- Feeding animals interrupts their natural behaviour. This is bad for them (when young are learning to forage it would be extremely bad if they had no foraging behaviour to observe) and us, as needless to say this ruins my footage as I don’t get normal behaviour on the nights when food has been put out for them.
When times are hard for badgers and other wildlife, a small amount of IRREGULAR supplementing (so they don’t get used to a pattern and rely on it) with SUITABLE foods is fine, ideally in your garden and away from their sett or nest.
Okay, rant over. I promise the next one will be cute and fluffy. I have some great badger footage to show you from the past few weeks, just have to edit it together. 🙂