02 May 2019
This May 4th – 12th marks Scottish Badger Week, so what better time to celebrate these ‘mammals of a different stripe’ by finding out more, joining an official badger watch - or even ‘setting out’ on your own?
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) mammal adviser, Rob Raynor said: “This is a great time of year to watch badgers, when the cubs begin to come out. Badger cubs are playful and curious.
“Badgers are found widely across the mainland of Scotland – so there is probably one not too far from where you live. The trick is to look in the right places – they usually live in family groups in woodland, feeding on nearby farmland or areas of grassland, and are even found in some towns and cities. In the Highlands they tend to be scarcer, except in the low-lying area around Inverness, but can still be found higher up. Here they are more likely to be solitary, roaming over large areas.
“Although badgers and their homes, known as setts, are protected by law, you can watch them quite legally as long as you take care not to disturb them or their setts.”
If you want to experience the magic of seeing a badger, here are some tips:
- Badger setts can be very obvious and are made up of networks of underground tunnels and chambers that the badgers spend the day in. Look out for the large, oval entrances with mounds of earth outside. Badgers are sociable and usually live in family groups of around four to six animals.
- Although their eyesight isn’t great, badgers are very sensitive to noise and movement - and have a keen sense of smell - so watching them can be tricky, but if you keep still, silent and downwind they are unlikely to spot you. Find a sett where you can watch with binoculars from a distance of about 50m away, to give you the best chance of seeing them and so you don’t disturb them. They’re not known for their speed but if frightened they can gallop at up to 25 miles an hour – and the last thing you want is to get in the way of a speeding badger! Some setts and their entrances aren’t used very often so pick one where the earth outside looks freshly dug and there are well-used paths between the entrances.
- For much of the year it’s unusual to see badgers during the day as they prefer to come out at night. But in the late spring and summer they often emerge well before it is dark, when they come out to look for their dinner – or is it breakfast? Their favourite food is earthworms but they will eat anything, from fruits and berries to insects, frogs and even small animals like rabbits and hedgehogs. You wouldn’t think of them up a tree, but some have been known to scale trees in search of slugs.
- It’s worth having a walk round the sett a few days before you plan to watch, but don’t walk close to the entrances where your scent may put them off coming out - and you could also inadvertently damage the sett. Suss out places you can watch downwind of the badgers, depending on which way the wind is blowing. If they smell you, they’ll stay put! Choose somewhere you can sit or stand with a tree, rock or bank behind you so you don’t stand out against a lighter background. You can also work out the quietest routes into your chosen spots.
- Pick a day where the weather is good – give wet or windy evenings a miss as the badgers aren’t too keen on bad weather either.
- Make sure you’re dressed in warm, dark coloured clothing that doesn’t rustle. Boots are a good idea and so is insect repellent, in case the midges are out.
- Bring binoculars so you can get a close-up view, and something comfy to sit on – you’re going to be sitting still for a while.
- Get there at least an hour before sunset so you can get settled and quiet before the badgers come out, but note that in the summer you will need to be much earlier than this as the badgers may already have emerged by mid-evening. Check the wind direction and make sure you are sitting downwind or with the wind blowing across you so the badgers can’t smell you.
- Watch, wait and listen – this is where you need a bit of patience.
- Keep very still and quiet when a badger comes out and enjoy watching them. After a time they will trot off to look for food and you can leave quietly.
Lots of events are taking place across Scotland during Scottish Badger Week, including badger watches, talks and craft workshops. For more information go to the Scottish Badgers website or click on this link: https://www.scottishbadgers.org.uk/scottish-badger-week.asp