Badgers in the Lakes
The cute and curious badger is one of Britain’s most loved wild creatures; their presence on this island dating back over half a million years! The Lake District is home to a large number of badgers, despite recent measures to cull them in an attempt to prevent bovine TB.
Here are five fun facts about badgers:
- Their sense of smell is reckoned to be 800 times better than ours.
- Their underground ‘setts’ can extend further than 100m! These bigger sets can be more than 100 years old. One recent badger sett was so big, it caused a road collapse!
- Most badgers live in mixed-sex groups of between four and eight- these are called ‘clans’.
- Badgers’ main food source is earthworms but they can eat many things- including snails; slugs; berries, and in hard-times even hedgehogs.
- Badgers can have anywhere between 2 and 5 cubs, once a year.
Why badgers are protected:
Unfortunately, there are many threats to badgers in the UK, mostly from the human population. Badger bating, poisoning and lamping are still widely practiced in rural areas. Add to this, new developments and forestry work destroying their setts and it’s no wonder there is the need for so many badger protection organisations across the UK. The Badger Trust works tirelessly to protect badgers from culling, hunting and man-made intrusions to their environment.
Where to spot badgers in the Lake District:
- The Badger Bar – The resident badgers at the Badger bar (in-between Ambleside and Grasmere) are said to come out at around 8:30 pm most nights. You can watch their live ‘BadgerCam’ on the Cumbria Wildlife Trust website.
- Thirlmere Lake – There are several badger setts in the woods surrounding Thirlmere. Dale Head Hall hosts several badger clans in its woods. The badger families have lived there for many years.
- Whinnlater Forest and Dodd Wood – Home to such a wonderful variety of protected wildlife; Whinnlater forest and Dodd Wood near Bassenthwite Lake is the perfect place to spot the elusive badger.
Tell tale signs of a badger sett:
If you’re keen on doing a bit of badger spotting yourself, there are a few tell-tale signs that will point you in the right direction to a lived-in sett:
- Paths linking sett entrances and foraging areas
- Foot prints
- Piles of earth and leaves outside sett entrances
- Piles of leaves (bedding) dropped on paths or near sett entrances
- Claw scratches on trees
It Is best to look for a a sett early in the morning, then re-visit it at sun-down after your scent has worn-off. Wear neutral colours; avoid scents like perfume or cigarette smoke; stay as still as possible and try not to make any noise or sudden moves. Badger cubs are particularly curious and may even approach you if you’re lucky. Don’t try to touch, pet or feed badgers or their young.
It is a criminal offence to disturb badgers, or damage, destroy or obstruct their setts. Not everyone is a fan of the badger, so be wary about giving out locations of setts.
Badger culling and vaccination:
The debate rages on; should badgers be culled to stop the spread of bovine TB in farmer’s livestock? With the alternative of vaccination for the badger population, many conservation groups are pushing for vaccines as the way forward, rather than destroying the population in an area. Culling is currently going on in Cumbria, although many natural spots are still considered protected.
Sources of further reading:
Read more about the Lake District outdoors: