18 March, 2024

My hope that adding a branch and making some other changes to the enclosure would disrupt V's repetitive behaviour and help the badgers to settle down proved misplaced.

This video clip reveals that she reverted to her "zoochotic" behaviour and, sadly, it became much more pronounced. The back and forth shown here (on the right) continued for over 5 hours.

Alarmingly, T seemed to have fallen into the same pattern for the first time. She can be seen on the left running in circles around a couple of trees. She made occasional efforts to elicit a reaction from V but, getting none, she too exhibited this stereotyped behaviour typical of animals unhappy in captivity. Both now seemed in despair, desperate to get out.

It seemed unconscionable to keep them in this state a day longer. They had shown no real sign of excavating the sett, bringing in bedding, play-fighting, or doing any of the things that might suggest adapting to their new accommodation.

Better then to let them go and take their chances in the wild. They're now young adults, older than our previous releases, and sufficiently well fed that they faced little likelihood of starvation. The worst of the cold weather is behind them. One of the greatest risks they face, that of becoming casualties on the road, is the same regardless of when they are released. Wild badgers continue to pass through the wood and there is a chance that they may follow a trail of scent marks to a sett.

Accordingly the fence was removed the following day and the badgers disappeared overnight, as expected, without even stopping to eat.

As with previous releases into this area where other badgers have been vaccinated, both are microchipped and vaccinated, and the release was done under licence from the National Parks and Wildlife Service – without which keeping badgers in captivity would be illegal.

Tully's racetrack after one night running in circles.