Badgers’ nocturnal habits make them difficult animals to watch. However, seated in the comfortable hides of Badger Watch, you can be certain of a good gawp at Britain’s largest land-based carnivores going about their badger business.
“Badgers have terrible eyesight,” explains Mark Needham, who initiated public badger watching on his farm 15 years ago. “If you stay quiet behind the glass, they don’t know you’re there.” We tiptoe into the hide – a wooden shed that accommodates about 16 badger enthusiasts. Behind huge windows, we scan a gently sloping grassy bank, golden in the setting sun, against the backdrop of a dark, wooded hillock.
There are about 18 badgers living in the surrounding network of tunnels. They’re a sophisticated lot, digging holes away from their sett for use as toilets and carrying out solemn funeral rites whenever a badger dies.
We listen and watch. After 20 minutes, a black-and-white nose breaches the foliage’s fringe and sniffs the air for danger. Eventually, a young badger the size of a fat, squashed house-cat bundles down the slope and begins to root around for worms, just feet from the hide. Three more join it, snuffling about in the grass, looking up with intent. We study their furry expressions with binoculars.
It may not be as dramatic as the sight of lions hunting or whales breaching, but badger watching is satisfyingly safari-like all the same. Judging by the entries in the visitor book, children love it too: “8.30pm: one looked right at me!!! It’s the best thing ever!!!”
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