I first discovered I had this very special visitor to my garden in July 2012. The badger is a fascinating animal to watch, and I count myself most fortunate to have experienced these most amazing encounters. I would lay out some peanuts and grapes on my patio, and wait patiently for it to come and pay me a visit during the dark hours. I would have to switch on my garden security light and have the patio door open a crack so I could take the photos here. ‘Mr Badger’, I had come to call him (although I was not entirely sure of its sex) got quite used to the light and to me being so close to it. At times I was just a few feet or so from him.
He visited regular right the way up until Boxing Day of that year, and then afterwards there was no sign of him until the following spring. I knew badgers didn’t hibernate in winter, although they went into a kind of torpor, and with the fat reserves they had been building up they did not always venture far from their setts. However, I did wonder whether Mr Badger had met an unfortunate end, especially as he probably had to cross some busy roads during his night travels. But in the spring of 2013, and to my sheer joy and excitement, I saw signs of him in my garden once again, and then I spied him foraging for food and eating peanuts I left out for him.
Mr Badger continued to visit right up until late December again, until he vanished until the following spring once again. I saw him briefly in March 2014, and have not seen him since. In the spring of 2014 Mr Badger had apparently been displaced by a Mr or Mrs Fox, who appeared to take up his spot for the remainder of the year, eating peanuts I placed out, until he or she vanished never to be seen as 2015 opened its doors.
Badgers belong to the weasel family Mustelidae. They are powerful mammals with large heads, and strong legs and claws, well suited for digging and burrowing into the earth. Their jaws are powerful enough to crush most bones, and the Badger is one of the few predators to be able to kill and eat hedgehogs. They live in excavated tunnels which they build by burrowing into the earth, and which are called setts. They are made up of tunnels and chambers, which can be at several levels, in which they hide in during the day. They use grass and other vegetation to line their setts which they use as bedding. Setts can extend over hundreds of square meters, and up to twenty-four adults and cubs may share a sett, which make them quite social creatures. Females usually give birth in February after mating the previous spring, and they may have up to three cubs.
An early name for badger was ‘brock’ from Old English, and within the roots of etymology means ‘to construct’, making a reference to the badgers building of underground setts where they live most of their lives. The name we use today is most likely to be from the French ‘bêcheur’, meaning ‘digger’, which was introduced during William the Conqueror’s reign. As omnivores, they mainly feed on earthworms and large insects, cereals, fruit, and occasionally small animals such as hedgehogs and rodents. They will raid bees nests to feast on their honey. They can live up to 16 years.
They are found in deciduous woodland, fields and pastures, and in urban habitats such as gardens. During the winter they are less active, but do not hibernate, but emerge in milder climes to forage for food. They emerge from their setts during dusk and use the shelter of night to hunt and search for food. Badgers are widespread throughout Great Britain, but are scarcer in Scotland. There are thought to be up to 300,000 badgers in the UK, from which they have benefited an increase in the last ten years. They are a native species, common, and they and their setts are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.
Photographs taken July & October 2012, and April 2013, rear garden, Staffordshire.