Tag Archives: badger

Double mustelids

It hasn’t been since the spring that I’ve properly used my trail cameras and got stuck into filming nocturnal wildlife with them. When I got my first trail camera it started off with filming hedgehogs in my garden, which are still visiting, then moved onto filming at a local badger sett. It then progressed to filming anywhere I thought something interesting may be lurking. This has also included otters, foxes, garden birds and so on. My favourite time to film wildlife with my trail cameras though is overnight. Partly because one of my favourite animals is the badger and it’s also fascinating to know what’s about behind the scenes.

After spending the last few years actively filming a badger sett which was quite a way from my local patch, earlier this year in July whilst exploring a woodland on my patch I was delighted to come across some strange mounds of earth and a selection of holes. Badgers! I was so thrilled to find a sett so close to my house, just a ten minute walk in fact! Unfortunately over the summer I’ve spent more time away from home then I have at home so haven’t had many opportunities to spend time setting trail cameras up at the sett or spend time sat there. However now I’m back at school, I have more time to do so.

The time I spent on Thursday evening on my patch was a bit surreal. Now, my patch isn’t the most interesting place in the world. It’s an area of woodland and farmland that is just on the outskirts of the city I live and backs onto a housing estate. Nevertheless it’s my patch and I enjoy spending time there so to find a badgers sett on it was one of the best moments ever! On Thursday night though, I set out with the intention to put my trail camera up quick then get home as it was already getting dark. Instead of walking through the woodland I decided to cut off onto the field which runs along side as visibility was getting very poor. As soon as I scrambled under the barbed wire fence and brushed myself down, a barn owl appeared in the sky above me. Amazing, the first time I’ve seen a barn owl on my patch for quite a while.

By the time I got to the top of the field and made my way into the woodland where the sett is, it was pretty dark. Whilst I glared at the tree trying to work out how I was going to sett my camera up, at the base something moved. A badger. It looked right at me. Two metres away. Our staring competition must of lasted about 30 seconds before it furiously smelt the air. This continued for about 4 minutes before it established it could relax. I stood solid. The animal sniffled around in the overgrowth around the sett then came back into my view. It was that relaxed it decided to have a wee before rolling over to scratch its belly.

This experience lasted about ten minutes before it casually returned down the sett. I continued to stand still for around five minutes, just encase it decided to return back to the surface. It didn’t so I quickly strapped my camera to the tree and trembled down the path whilst trying to be as invisible as possible. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. Not until I got home and sat down did I get my heart rate back to normal.

I was up early yesterday morning to collect my camera. On my way to the sett  I spotted a Goldcrest. I don’t see them very often on my patch. Perhaps one of the first autumn visitors. I didn’t see very much on my way though. Not because it wasn’t there but because I was so eager to collect my trail camera. I do remember a Chiffchaff was still calling though!

Once I’d collected my trail camera this continued as I sprinted home, impatient to see what I’d recorded overnight. Even though I knew it would only be badgers, it was still very exciting. Are there more animals around compared to the last time I filmed them? Have I captured some interesting behaviour? What direction were the animals going off in?

Just my luck, the batteries had played up over night and only recorded five 30 second long videos. Still, I impatiently and randomly made my way through the clips. What was that? Polecat! A Polecat, I’d recorded a Polecat! I couldn’t believe it! A Polecat came into the frame, sniffed around then disappeared behind the left-hand side of the camera frame. This is the first time I’ve recorded one on my trail camera and recorded one on my patch. However I did know of them being in the area. In fact they have quite a healthy population. Quite a few times I’ve seen road casualties on nearby roads, plus I know local wildlife trail cammer’ Kate MacRae has also filmed them around her garden.

Why am I so excited to see that polecats are active on my patch though? Well only recently have Polecat populations began to increase which has resulted in them spreading across England, from Wales. North Wales was once the only stronghold of Polecats as up until the 1930s they were persecuted by gamekeepers due to being considered as a pest. So with numbers bouncing back, it’s important to celebrate a success story.

Here’s the video I got.

And a badger.

Political playground

If you’re sitting inside and looking out, what might be there? From one to another it’ll vary. From a little patch nestled in suburbia to a vast open space where the perimeters of your fence don’t cut off the nature around. Wherever though, perhaps you have flowers in bloom being enjoyed by the last odd butterfly, a fruit tree with fruits either ready to go or almost there or maybe hawthorns beginning to fruit so they’re ready in time to provide for those species in search of food on a crispy autumn morning.

Today marks the first day of autumn and I’m delighted. My favourite season, I love it. Next week I’m back to Spurn for some early bird migration action then over the next few weeks, into October, I’m looking forward to seeing the changes on my local patch. Not just the changes in what birds I may see but the behaviour of them and mammals too. Including badgers. At the moment they’re out most of the night away from the sett in search of food, and so they’re prepared for the colder weather when they’ll spend a lot less time above ground and a lot more time below ground in efforts to keep warm. Over recent years I’ve found I always seem to get some interesting footage at this time of the year too as they spend more time closer to the sett.

Those badgers are in safe hands. Well, on safe land. I don’t mean that because I watch them and keep an eye out for them (this does help if they were to be targeted by wildlife criminals) but this land isn’t within any of those ten perimeters where the ineffective slaughter in a bid to control Bovine TB has begun.  So far over the 2013, 2014 and 2015 culls, over 1,600 animals have been killed in Gloucestershire, over 1,500 in Somerset and over 700 in Dorset, which makes a total of almost 4,000. 4,000 too many animals killed yet they continue despite everything. Despite the science, despite the cruelty of the killing and free shooting, and despite the cost which in total sums up to well over £7,000 to shoot one animal. Of tax payers money that is.

‘The science’ is a term thrown around quite a bit by those in opposition, that’s because there’s a lot of core evidence which suggests many different things. Many of the readers to my blog who have followed it from the start will know about my love for badgers due to my multiple posts about them, hours of trail camera footage I’ve shared and much more but this isn’t the only reason why I campaign against the cull. I also do it to oppose our bigoted government whom are letting this ridiculous and injustice torture to take place in the British countryside. A place of retreat and happiness turned into a political playground.

If you condense it down and look at the basics, that includes taking away the ‘cute factor’, it’s a disgrace. Going back, look at the science. The hard science because what’s more reliable? The most recent significant results of a study found Bovine TB isn’t passed on through direct contact between cows and badgers. During their field study, badgers and cattle didn’t come into contact with each other. It is evident most TB is contracted by cattle to cattle contact. The research did find that it could be contracted through contaminated pasture and dung too. This links back to farming practices though, if slurry a farmer spreads over their field includes infected dung then the bacteria is all over another field.

The study, led by Professor Rosie Woodroffe at the Zoological Society London, also found that even when culling cattle and badgers the bacteria can remain on the field for months. Therefore slaughter isn’t the answer, the issue needs to be addressed efficiently. Many have suggested the answer is for DEFRA to take money out of the ineffective cull and put it into educating farmers and improving bio-security on farms. As Wales have done. Bovine TB in Welsh herds is down 14 per cent over the past 12 months, with 94 per cent now TB free and guess what? No badgers have been killed.

Why are more badgers being killed this year then? DEFRA have tripled the number of licenses issued compared to last year. There is a great amount of opposition yet to give the farmers something in efforts to eradicate TB they take us back to what always seems to be the answer within our countryside, kill it. DEFRA, Andrea Leadsom, and the majority of farmers represented by the NFU (and maybe a few more) are obviously content that their ‘strategy’ (AKA slaughter) is and will deliver results. Yet not one animal that has been culled has been tested for TB since the culls began in 2012.

The role out for this year is massive. To reach minimum targets, marksmen are going to have to kill 10,000 badgers between now and the end of November. No one has given any justification for this, yet it’s already taking place. We’re being ripped off and they won’t listen to a word we say. That doesn’t mean we may as well give up because we have to make them listen. They’re not stupid, they know it isn’t going to give them any results, even if they were to wipe out every badger in  England. Why are they robbing us then?

We’ve got the facts though and therefore we’re right. It must end and we’ll win. Please do what you can; whether that’s signing the petition recently set up, support campaigns from the Badger Trust, donate to their cause, take a look at what your local badger group is doing, write to your local MP or anything, it’s worth it.

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A follow up: Stafford’s badger celebrations

After the event I helped organise in Stafford that took place last weekend I thought I had better do a follow up post to thank those who came (and helped with organising), celebrate the support we got, and share how well it went. This is only going to be a pretty brief post though as I have a lot of sixth form work that needs finishing for the end of term next week…then the summer – wahey!

The idea of having a march opposing the badger cull and the risk of it spreading to Staffordshire was first brought to the groups attention (The Staffordshire Badger Conservation Group) at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately we had a bit of trouble sorting dates out but then the idea was put forward that the day would mark the end of National Badger Week 2016, which was a brilliant plan!

National Badger Week was a massive success. So well done to all those who helped organise events throughout the week. There was so much taking place around the country from very successful badger watches and coffee mornings to talks and lectures. Lots of money was raised to help The Badger Trust continue with the work they do along with the groups up and down the country, and (just as importantly) a lot of awareness was raised about the badger cull, persecution and to educate members of the public about the badger away from the politics.

There have been many, many marches taking place across the UK over the last few years in an attempt to stop the cull. These events along with the tireless work of individuals out in the field and campaigning hard is without a doubt having a massive impact. Although we haven’t won yet, I’m certain we will one day.

Here in Staffordshire the risk of a cull is unlikely at the moment but if the policy continues it could be dreams come true for those who are pushing for licences. However there are many other factors which are having a dreadful impact on badger welfare. Although badger baiting has been illegal since the 1830s, it still takes place in areas around the UK and we have had cases in Staffordshire too. Some this year in fact. Fortunately the group is extremely lucky to have good relationships with an exceptional wildlife crime force. I must add though; there are many horrific ways we’ve seen badgers being persecuted and killed throughout the UK which aren’t always badger baiting incidences.

I spoke about the protection of badgers in Staffordshire by the group (which has now been running for 30 years) when I stood up in central Stafford and spoke on Saturday afternoon. Not just talking to those who had come to the event but those passing by and coming to see what all the fuss was about. Making the reasons why, what and how we can all stand up for badgers and against the malicious hate some have against them heard. I also made similar points on one of the local radio stations, BBC Radio Stoke, that morning and I also spoke about why culling badgers is not the answer. I will not go into detail about this now as I have in the past, I will in future posts and I really need to get some school work done! However I did get a bit criticised for not mentioning more about the science in my talk. The reason for this was having my talk preceded by Mark Jones and Dominic Dyer who went into a lot of detail about the science and therefore I didn’t feel the need to repeat this again at that time.

Anyhow, you can listen to the radio interview below. It was also brilliant to have others speak in Stafford on Saturday including Dominic Dyer and Peter Martin from The Badger Trust, Mark Jones from Born Free Foundation and Jordi Casamitjana from IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare). Each spoke passionately, precisely and with rich knowledge about a range of topics from the politics of badgers and work of The Badger Trust to the science behind badgers and BTb and also the history of this species that has lived among our landscape for over a quarter of a million years.

Being me I couldn’t miss a chance to speak out about young people and the future of wildlife and its protection. I was thrilled to be able to do this after being asked to sit on the panel of the previous evenings debate. The conversation of the evening was much more focused on the politics of the badger and also the impact of the recent EU Referendum result. Dominic and Peter both spoke about The Badger Trust’s response, of which has been published this week. This included that after many funds have been cut from leaving the EU, DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) should reconsider the extortionate costs of badger culling. You can read this in full by clicking here.

The support at the festival over the weekend was incredible but not surprising.

You can listen to the radio interview here by forwarding to the 1.07 mark – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03yhbk6

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You can also listen to the talks from the Saturday here.

Dominic Dyer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbJK18ewuAw

Jordi Casamitjana – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoYhO1ClMsk

Georgia Locock – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I71KiMoIbRY

Mark Jones – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4hDy5lI4MI

Peter Martin – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdjzafUSe0o

Over the next few weeks and months I have some really interesting blog posts lined up as I have some exciting projects planned! Also, not forgetting posts in the run up to the cull this year and Hen Harrier Day at the beginning of August.

Celebrating badgers for National Badger Week in Stafford

So its been a week since Brexit happened yet everyday it continues to send shock waves through the country. I never actually thought things like this happened, complete uproar! Nevertheless as I spoke about in my latest blog (about the results) it’s about battling on now and trying to create something positive. There are many things that we can’t let the vote results get in the way of; from hen harriers, and the upcoming Hen Harrier Day, and wildlife crime (just a few days ago I read an article about an illegal snare set up by a primary school) to badgers with what is very likely to be another season of badger culling later in the year.

At the moment we’re not quite sure how far the badger cull will span further across the UK this year but it’s very likely that new areas will be sucked in and the dreadful killing of badgers will happen. Just north of me in Cheshire an expression of interest in the badger culling licence has been submitted. Cheshire was one of six new counties to apply for badger culling licenses this year. Areas of my home county are also vulnerable and the same could happen within the next few years, if the policy continues. Some of these areas include Eccleshall which is just five miles west of the county town of Stafford where this weekend events will be taking place to shout above those who want to bring a cull to Staffordshire or culling in any area in the UK, and celebrate the badger for the animal it is without being entwined with politics, farming or cruelty.

And so they should be! Badgers have lived in the UK for over a quarter of a million years and therefore undoubtedly a part of our heritage. They may be our largest carnivore but they’re very secretive and whenever I watch them it feels magical! On my patch the local badgers sett is situated in a small(ish) undisturbed clump of old oak trees. Real badger land.

All this week National Badger Week has been running which is a week long celebration of the badger. Events have been running up and down the country with the aim of inspiring more people to realise how wonderful they are, why they so greatly deserve to be a part of our landscape and most of all, why we should be protecting them. I felt really privileged to mark the beginning of this years celebration in Lush, Oxford Street last Saturday, and have the finale organised by my badger group, The Staffordshire Badger Conservation Group, this weekend in Stafford.

Tomorrow evening (Friday 1st) we have an event at Oddfellows Hall in Stafford town centre starting at 7pm. The evening will begin with a talk from wildlife photographer Craig Jones who gave a passionate and emotionally beautiful presentation at the Birders Against Wildlife Crime conference earlier this year. There will then be a town hall debate called ‘The Big Badger Debate’ where lots will be discussed from badger protection, persecution and the impact of housing developments to their ecology and importance within the British countryside. It should be very lively with a panel including Dominic Dyer, CEO The Badger Trust, Peter Martin, chair The Badger Trust, Mark Jones, vet from Born Free Foundation, Jordi Casamitjane, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and myself. We are hoping to have a good audience with a mixture of opinions.

On the Saturday (2nd July) it’s going to be a very full day with a variety of entertainment for children, as well as adults, and a peaceful protest around Stafford town centre. Before the march at 12 noon there will be talks from Dominic Dyer (The Badger Trust), Peter Martin (The Badger Trust), and myself. We will then start at around 1pm from the Market Square and be on our way around the town centre projecting and creating a clear message against the unscientific, unethical and cruel cull. Once we arrive back there will also be talks from Mark Jones (Born Free Foundation) and Jordi Casamitjane (IFAW)

I’m sure it’s going to be a very inspiring and empowering day as we gear up for the high possibility of more culling this year and of course celebrate the importance and greatness of having badgers as part of our natural heritage.

It would be wonderful to see some of you there and have your support.

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