There are signs of activity in the wood, evidence that the local Badgers are busily engaged in their nocturnal wanderings. In some parts of the wood well-worn paths can be seen, striking across a particularly steep bank or out towards the pasture where they feed. Then there are the latrines, rough pits into which the Badgers defecate and which have an important role in social organisation and territorial demarcation. Elsewhere in the wood there is evidence of foraging activities, with ‘snuffle’ holes an indication of foraging for soil-dwelling invertebrates. A Robin’s nest has been ripped from the low bank in which it was hidden, the footprints of the culprit identifying a Badger as the predator involved. Ironically perhaps, the ripped out nest is lined with Badger hair, the Robin scavenging pieces of hair caught on a nearby fence under which the Badgers pass out of the wood and into the fields beyond.
The Badger has an interesting association with humans, in that pretty much all of us know what a Badger looks like (the image of a Badger features on the logos of numerous organisation and is used in the marketing of certain products). However, very few of us have seen a live Badger and many people live close to active Badger setts yet remain completely unaware of their existence. Badgers make frequent appearances on our television screens and you can even book yourself onto a Badger-watching wildlife break. The strong black and white face markings, the shuffling gait and the strong social ties within a group of Badgers, make them an engaging creature and it is easy to see why so many people have taken them to heart.
There is another side to our interactions with Badgers though, a darker side which has seen the Badger persecuted, baited and culled. Badgers were once persecuted because of their perceived impacts on game and fox hunting interests: the former because they opportunistically eat the young and eggs of ground-nesting birds and the latter because they supposedly compete with Foxes for access to earths and setts. They are still baited with dogs in some areas, a vile and inhumane practice that is thankfully becoming less common. Then there is the issue of Badgers and Bovine TB, which has controversially resulted in a controlled cull. Regardless of the role that Badgers may or may not play in the spread of Bovine TB, and of the need to protect the livelihoods of farmers, it does seem morally wrong to target a species purely because it has some impact on our lives. After all, such impacts are minimal compared to those we are having on the countryside and the other creatures with which we share it.