Mammal Mapping and Badgers

Mammal mapper

David Beeson

When I’m out and about I record the mammals that occur in the area. Now, mammals are notoriously difficult to see. Plants are everywhere, butterflies sometimes in their hundreds and aphids coat the garden’s roses … but mammals hide away. But, if we all keep our eyes open you’ll be surprised how many signs you’ll notice. In my article about Harewood you’ll encounter how to spot the territorial markings of roe deer, but other signs are easier to spot.

Even walking around the newish urban park at Picket Twenty I found rabbit droppings. Adjacent to Andover College were mole hills and dead badgers sometimes line the A303. All of these are mammal signs and it’s good sense to send them into the Mammal Society.

And, its so easy to achieve. I downloaded Mammal Mapper for my ‘phone and it will automatically record my location (or one can put it in manually on a supplied map) and send the data into the central record system. Job done.

A brown rat in my compost bin … send it the record. A dormouse nest along The Middleway .. click, click and I’ve told The Mammal Society and, indirectly, HCC and TVBC. Every record may influence planning applications and possibly save spaces for wildlife.

Badgers are having an ‘interesting’ press in recent years. I once ran a badger group and have spent a day with the Oxford University badger experts at their research reserve at Wytham Woods.

Where to look for badgers?

Firstly, they do not enjoy ploughed agricultural landscapes. If you spot a huge wheat field with no permanent pasture or open woodland or hedges – then the chance of encountering a badger or its sett is remote. Their main food source is earthworms – and they occur in highest numbers on permanent pasture, especially if it is botanically diverse. For that reason dense woodland is not ideal, although setts are sometimes located there as farmers don’t often appreciate them in open land.

Locally, I found the best way to locate a sett is to walk about 20m inside a woodland and parallel to its edge. If you spy earth excavations or patches of nettles or elderberry explore – as badger digging and urine encourages both species.

Narrow pathways lead to and from the sett and they can be useful indicators, especially if the track goes beneath fallen trees, branches or scrub (deer cannot easy do that!).

Badgers poo. They leave dung pits (about 5 -10cm wide and about 5cm deep) often showing semi-solid faeces. Most likely these will be some distance from the main sett and usually around a field margin or popular feeding site. [In the past badger researchers would leave peanut butter laced with small coloured beads adjacent to setts. The animals would show their used territory by depositing these beads in dung pits around their area. Much of this work was carried out in the countryside just north of Corfe Castle.]

Deer signs. Probably fallow.

Where should you explore locally?

There are setts in the southern part of Harewood – south of the A303. At Danebury and Broughton Down. Explore Buryhill near Anna Valley. Chute Causeway and the surrounding area used to hold a good population. Porton Down is said to have one of the largest badger populations in the UK.

Try to gain access to Wytham Woods near Oxford – that is the research location used by Oxford University. PTES sometimes have ‘open days’ there and I have a private pass.

Do badgers really spread TB?

Yes, as do deer and especially cattle.

The Isle of Wight badgers do not swim and do not have TB. Suddenly TB was found on the IOW. Most likely cause is from imported cattle.

But, cattle are TB tested.

Sure, but the TB test does not work on cattle carrying a parasite loading … and do you think cattle are free of gut worms? Humans get them, as do dogs, horses, foxes and all other wild mammals.

Vaccinate badgers!

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