Rabbitting on……

With the season of badger road casualties and orphaned cubs upon us, I knew it was only a matter of time before I received my first badger call-out of 2010. The call came yesterday – two baby badgers had been found, not far from where a sett had been interfered with recently. As the only Brockwatch rescue officer available it was down to me to collect the orphans and deliver them to someone who could rear them. However, all what was not what it seemed.

I phoned the Leicestershire Wildlife Hospital to make sure they were able to take in two very young badger cubs, then rang the lady who had found the cubs to let her know I was on my way. She informed me that one of the two babies had already died. The other was being kept warm. Time was of the essence, so I made my way to the village where badgers had been found as quickly as I could.

As I mentioned in my first entry of this blog, “newborn cubs are around 15 – 16 cm long and … have a covering of silky fur which is mostly pale grey in colour, but darker on the legs and, even at this early age, two dark facial stripes…” The photo here shows the head of a very young badger which I found outside a local sett exactly one year before yesterday’s rescue, on 1 March 2009. (Sadly the little mite had died below ground and had then been dragged out onto the spoil heap, presumably by the mother. To see a live baby badger, check out webcam 3 at the Secret World website.)

Of course, while most people are familiar with the appearance of an adult badger, not everyone knows what a baby one looks like. This fact soon became apparent when I arrived at my destination yesterday. The small mammal delivered into my custody was about half the size of a newborn badger, hairless, and had skin which was mostly dark grey in colour. Its appearance was vaguely rodent-like, but without the pointed muzzle and long tail; the ears were not round but slightly elongated. “Erm … this isn’t a badger,” I said.

Although I knew for certain the little orphan wasn’t a badger (or, come to that, a rat), I wasn’t sure exactly what it was. It was, after all, way too young to be above ground and so not something which I or anyone else would normally get to see. But whatever the creature’s identity, it was in need of help and so I continued with my original plan of action and took it to Vicky, a volunteer with the Leicester Wildlife Hospital. Vicky was then able to confirm what I half suspected myself – I had in fact rescued a baby rabbit!

Today I phoned the lady who found the rabbit kittens to let her know what type of animal she had found, and also to let her know that, as of this afternoon, the survivor was still going strong and is in good hands. “I feel really embarrassed now,” the lady said, but my reply was: “I would sooner have twenty wild goose chases (or wild rabbit chases) than miss a genuine badger emergency because someone isn’t sure what they have found and so doesn’t call us.”

Besides, an animal in need, taken from its mother and abandoned, has been rescued – and should now be able to grow up into something that anyone would recognise!

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