It’s been a life long ambition of mine to photograph one of the most iconic British mammals – the badger. Earlier this year I decided I would finally dedicate some time to making that happen and so I started out on my quest to photograph these elusive creatures.
The hardest part initially was finding subjects. I’ve seen plenty of badgers before, but only either as fleeting glimpses on city streets at night, or sadly dead by the side of the road. It’s very uncommon to see badgers foraging in broad daylight, but often at the sett the families will emerge early to socialise and reaffirm bonds before setting out for a night of foraging. This means that the easiest place to photograph badgers is actually at the sett.
The first step was to identify suitable areas to begin the search. Badgers’ main source of food is the earthworm, which favours grassy fields, ideally those grazed by livestock. The sett also needs to be sheltered from view and the elements, typically dug into sloping ground for ease of access and best drainage.
After I’d identified some suitable areas, I set out visiting a different one each day, following animal tracks as they criss crossed through the woodland, seeking out signs of badger activity such as snuffle pits and latrines. Many of the tracks lead nowhere and the latrines can be hundreds of metres away from the sett, but every so often one of the trails leads you to a hole in the ground and it’s then time to identify who it belongs to!
Many believe the best way to identify an active sett is by the entrance hole, as badgers typically favour a characteristic sideways ‘D’ shape entrance. However the entrance shape can be misleading as many animals can occupy old setts. Badgers, foxes, rabbits and even otters have all been known to take over each others old burrows. Actually one of the best ways to tell is by fresh piles of dirt outside, Badgers are voracious diggers and are constantly expanding their setts.
After a few long days searching I had found a couple of active setts, sadly they were completely unsuitable, either on private land, tucked away in dense vegetation or far too close to public roads and bridleways. I kept persevering though and eventually I discovered a sett on the edge of some farmland in an area of woodland with no footpaths running through, perfect!
The next step was to make sure the sett was definitely active and that the badgers emerged before dark. So I set up a trail cam and left it there for a few days to monitor the activity.
Upon reviewing the footage I discovered that there was a large family of badgers living in the sett and to top it off they were all emerging and playing long before dark, this was my chance!
I arrived early each evening and sat quietly waiting a short distance from the sett entrances. After a few long evenings sitting= in complete silence staring at a bush and pondering my own sanity, the badgers finally emerged in decent light.
It’s a real privilege to see these stunning animals as they go about their business just a few feet away, I have to admit I’m well and truly hooked!