As you may have gathered from this blog, life as a Brockwatcher involves more than just watching Brocks. Protecting the amazing animals which provide so much pleasure is also high on the agenda, and this involves amongst other things, rescues, sett visits and surveys, fund raising, investigating incidents of persecution … and committee meetings.
Committee meetings aren’t the most exciting aspect of badger protection work, but they are essential. After all, for an organisation to work it has to be, well, organised (maybe I should have left out those last two commas). Which events can our increasingly small band of volunteers realistically attend? How are we progressing with ongoing problems caused by badgers (digging up gardens) and by people (interfering with badger setts)? How are our finances? What planning applications are likely affect badgers and how do we respond to them? How do we promote wider awareness of our group? These are just some of the issues which were discussed at this month’s Brockwatch committee meeting on Tuesday evening. If only we had a few more committee members to discuss the issues and take away action points. Without a Brockwatch committee there would be no Brockwatch, and that would be bad news for badgers in Northampton and South West Northants.
While our local badgers are the main concern of Brockwatch, we also do what we can to help badgers elsewhere, primarily through our membership of the Badger Trust. We contributed towards the legal costs borne by Trust in its battle against the planned cull of badgers in Wales, and I was able to update the rest of the committee on the latest situation regarding the Trust’s application for a Judicial Review. Little did we know that the outcome of that review would be known just three days later, on Friday April 16th.
The judge’s verdict, in favour of the Welsh Assembly Government, was of course a bitter disappointment. Badgers bear little blame for the current scale of the bovine TB problem. Poor management of the disease within cattle over a period of many years and a huge rise in the movements of cattle within and between different regions of England and Wales (particularly after the foot and mouth epidemic)are the primary factors which have caused the disease to increase and to spread so widely. Badgers have simply picked TB up from the cattle who share their territories, and sadly that has led to them becoming part of the problem. How very unjust it is that they must now pay the ultimate price for human failings.
Saturday brought some better news. The two possibly orphaned cubs seen in a garden on Monday, had since made further daytime appearances. Although their mother had not been seen, the cubs seemed to be thriving and so were obviously receiving maternal care (although maternal guidance on when to leave the sett to go exploring had yet to be given). These were two little badgers who would not need to be rescued. The same could not be said about the next badger I encountered however.
If there’s something striped, in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? Brockwatcher! (With apologies to Ray Parker, Jr.) Actually, the lady who found the striped creature lying injured in the hay in her outbuilding yesterday morning tried calling the Warwickshire Badger Group first. But I was next on her list, and we badger people don’t worry too much about county boundaries if a badger needs rescuing. So off I went, heading for an address not far from Brandon, near Coventry. On my arrival I found a badger in very bad shape.
Brandon, as I ended up naming this beaten-up badger, had a large wound on his rump, a painful souvenir of a fight with another of his own kind. He had also lost both his ears and gained scars around his neck in previous bust-ups, and was pitifully thin. But he was able to move around without any problem, as I found out when I made my first attempt to get him into my badger rescue cage. Once he was in the cage, he hissed to make it clear that he still had some fight left in him. Fortunately he soon settled down. At the veterinary surgery, the diagnosis was that the wound would heal given anti-biotics and protection from flystrike. With injections administered, Brandon’s next destination was my kitchen, where he would stay until I could get him admitted to somewhere more suitable.
Somewhere more suitable was the Leicestershire Wildlife Hospital. I delivered Brandon into the Hospital’s care during the afternoon, and he moved into more spacious accommodation opposite a handsome dog fox who was recovering from a leg injury. Time will tell how Brandon’s story ends. If I have rescued him in time, he will hopefully respond well to treatment, eat plenty of food and put on weight, so that eventually he will be in good shape not only to return to the wild but also to deal more successfully with any further run-ins with other badgers.
As for my own story of a week full of badgery happenings, that ended last night with an attempt to watch my usual woodland sett. I got to see the big boar (first out at around 7.50pm) and two of the yearlings before I had to give up – the wind could not make its mind up which way it was blowing. One minute I felt it in my face, the next on the back of my neck, which meant that the badgers were able to detect my presence. So I headed for another wood nearby in the hope of a chance encounter with one of the badgers there. That was not to be. Instead I heard, and briefly saw, a muntjac deer. The deer also saw me and bounded off, foot-stomping to alert the rest of the wood’s residents to the presence of an intruder, and then barking loudly for good measure.
All was not lost however. I became aware of another animal moving about in the darkness nearby when I heard the pitter-patter of tiny … wings. A small bat had picked this spot to hunt for insect food, and flew back and forth following a regular circuit amongst the oak trees. I stood and watched for a while, enjoying an unexpected end to this week in the life of a Brockwatcher.