Badgers in your garden

With their stripy faces and fat little bodies, badgers have a high ‘cute-factor’, but if you’ve ever had a badger in your garden you might begin to take a different view of these animals.

I’d always thought they were shy and elusive creatures only to be found in the deep wilds of the countryside. I knew that they were a protected species and that neither they nor their setts should be disturbed and concluded that they must be rare. So I didn’t expect a badger to turn up in the middle of Tayport! I’d heard about urban foxes but not about urban badgers.

In truth my first ‘experience’ of badgers should have given me a clue. Many years ago I was walking late in the evening on Wimbledon Common (which, as everyone knows, is home to the closely-related Womble) and my husband, walking ahead of me said ‘Did you see that badger?’ I hadn’t and have always felt rather disappointed that I didn’t see this allegedly cute little beast. But even then I wouldn’t have thought it strange to find badgers living in the middle of a city. Wimbledon Common is huge and definitely feels more like country than town.

More recent badger ‘encounters’ have been in some woodland we own. An area of ground had been fairly comprehensively turned over and a knowledgeable visitor, noticing holes filled with poo, identified the cause as badgers. ‘How wonderful!’ we thought and promptly set up a wild-life camera to catch them on film. Here’s a compilation video of a few nights’ activity.

We also began to do a bit of research but this unearthed a less than savoury reputation. Did you know that badgers are the principal predator of hedgehogs? I like hedgehogs. We occasionally have one visiting our garden where it potters about, grunting in its characteristic way along the hedges as it searches for snails and other pests we gardeners could do without. Hedgehogs are useful. Hedgehogs are not destructive. Hedgehogs, if you ignore the fleas and ticks they tend to be infested with, really are cute.

More lawn damage.
grass damage
Lawn dug up along a hedge (damage now covered with netting)

But, back to the less-than cute Tayport Badger(s). The first indication of a visitor was the total destruction of part of my neighbour’s lawn. And I mean total. In my own lawn-free garden there was a bit of digging here and there in some bark, and a few strange holes which we struggled to explain as being caused by blackbirds or cats. Having seen the evidence of badgers in our wood it was clear that the lawn-destroyer had been a badger. But where had it come from and, more importantly, how had it got in? My neighbour’s garden is surrounded by a stout fence. A bit more research was called for. Fortunately Scottish Badgers provides a wealth of information on their website.

Apparently some of the males can be kicked out of a sett at this time of year and then go wandering looking for a new sett. OK, so it’s just a wandering badger, we thought. It won’t be back. But it was. More destruction, more lawn dug up. It turns out that what they really like is short mossy grass which is probably why they largely ignored my own garden. They also like spilled bird-food so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that the first place it had dug up was under a bird-feeder. (They are particularly fond of peanuts.) But there was still the mystery of where it was getting in. We set up a wildlife camera and captured lots of videos of cats passing through quite small gaps in the stout fence, including my own rather chubby cat. However, the gaps seemed too small for a badger to get through since, in our wood videos at least, they’re substantially larger than cats.  But the camera doesn’t lie and eventually we did get a video of something very like a badger going through the fence, and this was on another night of more general destruction. (Circumstantial evidence, I agree, but definitely enough to point the finger at the culprit.)

badger snuffle hole
Typical ‘snuffle-hole’

This time I noticed more digging in my own garden, worryingly close to my chicken enclosure. Did you know that badgers can kill chickens? Not so cute now, are they? It hadn’t, however, gone into the outer enclosure (in spite of gaps in the netting) and our chickens are fairly well protected with a further fence of more substantial netting dug into the ground, then a plastic/metal chicken coop in which they’re shut in when it’s dark. So I wasn’t overly concerned. But still … Then, looking over a wall, I noticed that it also been in another neighbour’s garden and had made quite a mess of a barked area. I’m not sure when any of this happened, whether it had been that night or the night before but we definitely have film evidence of the presence of a badger on two nights running, both fairly early in the evening – 8.40 one night when we saw it disappearing through the fence, then at 7 pm the following night where it was crossing the grass in the opposite direction (combined in one video below).

So, where is it living? Has it made its home in one of the adjoining over-grown gardens? Or is it just wandering about? Where was it on the nights when we didn’t get a visit?  Digging up someone else’s garden presumably.  So, will it go eventually? (We really hope so!) Or has it dug in for the winter?  Evidence at the moment confines it to the gardens between Ogilvy Street and Nelson Street but one (the same one?) was seen on Rose Street a couple of weeks ago. So have you seen a badger or evidence of a badger? At this time of year we spend less time in our gardens and it could be that you’ve had part of your garden dug up and not known about it. So go out and take a look. Report any siting or evidence of badger activity in the comments box below.

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