On a frigid and miserable Saturday night, plagued with the fact that I had nowhere to go and no one to see, I found solace in a talk hosted by WildSoc on the Scottish badger. Taking place over Zoom, the presentation was led by the chairman of Scottish Badgers, Eddie Palmer. Scottish Badgers is a charity that is dedicated to the study, conservation, and protection of badgers. The event started promptly at 7:00 pm and covered the biology, ecology, and predation of badgers. Characterised by their small heads, long wedged-shaped bodies, and short strong legs, badgers are designed for underground living. And to be honest, I’m extremely envious of these traits because I would trade everything to be able to burrow away from my responsibilities. The presentation reminded me of a nature documentary but live and in a slideshow medium. Either way, I also learned that the badger is the only animal with an attached jawbone making its grasp very powerful. I find it endearing that this goofy looking animal has the capacity to cause some serious damage.
Around half of the badger’s diet consists of earthworms (they can put away hundreds a night) and will actually bypass other food to get to them. Other foodstuff favourites include woodlice, fruit, wild garlic, and oats. Unfortunately, the badger faces worries far greater than burrowing for earthworms seeing as they have us (humans) as their biggest threat. Activities such as building development, agriculture, and forestry degrade badger setts and cause disturbances to food chains. Things are further complicated because a sett is defined as any place or structure which displays signs of current use by a badger and it’s the emphasis on current use that is legally troublesome. Eddie Palmer went on to further elaborate that there seems to be minimal effort in the agriculture industry to share with nature. This point was later challenged by a local farmer who chimed in during the Q&A section who shared that he was disappointed with this take and that farmers like himself have a deep appreciation for nature and badgers. I’ll admit that this tiny dose of drama was enough to satiate the part of me that loves the Real Housewives franchise, it was truly exhilarating. Looking past this gem of an interaction, it’s important to highlight the fact that there are over 5000 badger deaths as a result of contact with vehicles. And all of these interactions with humans have implications on the state of badgers since there is a 50-60% mortality rate among badger cubs. The threat to badgers extends beyond just being collateral damage in people going about daily life and activities which sustain our lives because there are some who seek to harm badgers through blood sport, most notably badger-baiting in which badgers are baited with dogs.
I came away from this talk with a lot of new knowledge about badgers and also a deep appreciation for the folks at Scottish Badgers who put a tremendous amount of work towards protecting and studying badgers. And although I haven’t seen much of Scotland since arriving in September, the talk allowed me to feel a little bit more connected to this country as I came away with a better understanding of how badgers live on this land.