On the morning of 14th February (2018) there was some useful snow cover in my back garden at Nedd (NC1331). A fall two days earlier had begun to melt, but fresh snow overnight provided just the right conditions for tracking any nocturnal visitors. There had been much badger traffic, with clear paw prints, showing the five pads and claws. These paw prints are formed by the larger front paws, with the smaller back ones superimposed on them.
The first evidence of badgers noted in this garden was on 12th May 1996, when Pat found a dung-pit in one of our vegetable beds. Sightings then peaked during the early 2000s, when peanuts, put out for our entertainment and that of visitors, regularly attracted a sow and three cubs. On one memorable occasion, Pat’s two grandchildren had, unknown to us, laid a trail of nuts from the lawn to our back door, where they were watching all four animals scoffing noisily less than a yard away. A little longer and they might have had them inside the house.
Badgers are creatures of habit and the back lawn has a central groove that is part of a small network of highways, radiating from an access point under the stock-proof fence along the burn at the bottom of the garden and converging to an exit higher up. Snuffle holes, where they have been digging for worms, are spread across the whole area, and a recent inspection revealed a cluster of freshly dug dung-pits in tussocky grass near their access point. Their interest in this part of their nightly rounds may have been enhanced lately, since I have been clearing out a chest freezer, with some material well past its use-by date being dumped on the lawn.
Words and photos by Ian Evans