Christmas 2015

This blog is due for a catch-up.

Our first two badgers, Róisín and Benji, are gone. Róisín left abruptly, apparently with a visiting male who began to venture into the sett when they were out. Benji moved out later but returned regularly for food for quite a long time (about a year), then, overnight, he stopped coming. It's very likely that he was a road casualty.

A few weeks after Benji stopped visiting, in April 2015, we were brought an adult female. We called her Maeve. She didn't take to the sett. Indeed, she never even went underground and she left inside one day, somehow forcing her way under an electric fence intended to confine her for a few weeks until she settled in. Alas, she was "wired" to bolt from the moment she arrived.

The Kildare Animal Foundation, from whom the badgers came, generally releases rehabilitated adult animals back into the place they have come from. In the case of badgers in particular, it has appeared that they know exactly where they are when this happens. They have well worn paths and familiar scents to guide them, and they dash home right away.

The protocol followed by Secret World in the UK is to release groups of badgers who have spent time together and who are then more inclined to stay together, in a place with no other badgers nearby, once the fence is removed. They are, after all, social animals.

On the 6th of December we got our first group of badgers, two males and two females: 3 orphans, hand-reared, and 1 young adult female who was caught in an illegal snare. Two brothers from County Kildare and two girls, each from another county. Two couples potentially.

They had lived together in captivity in a confined space for some months, sleeping under an upturned dog basket. Reportedly, the boys were adventurous and were sometimes seen by day, especially at feeding time.

Originally we hoped to have them tested for, then vaccinated against, bovine TB before releasing them. It turned out that the BCG vaccine is currently almost unobtainable due to the diversion of manufacturing supply to meeting an increased demand for vaccine for humans. As result they were released a few weeks later than originally planned.

They came in separate containers, boys in one and girls in the other, and they all had conspicuously clean feet -- of digging animals who hadn't yet done any digging.

They adopted the sett immediately and did some further excavation. We can only guess whether they have one large bed chamber or two smaller ones.

Having seen one of the boys make repeated efforts to get into a plastic container with water in it, spilling it each time, I persuaded my other half to loan the badgers a plastic "bath" (originally an IKEA underbed storage unit). It came back banjaxed, split from top to bottom, at both ends.

Alas, I used an old camera without sound and prone to taking short clips. The result, shown above, nevertheless conveys something of the badger's joie de vivre. (The darkness of the water is a result of using infra-red light.)

I have recorded their frolics every night, and will post them here when I have time. The fence will come down quite soon (1st of January or thereabouts) and they'll be free to go. Of course, we hope they will stay around.