Scottish Badger Week 2020 - Day 6 Badger Behaviour

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There's a lot of books about badgers, and we think we know pretty much all there is about them. But do we really? As we mentioned on our “Real Badgers of…” day, trail cameras have really revolutionised how we can watch badgers, and the behaviours observed very often have no mention in any on the current literature – it turns out there’s still a lot to learn about these nocturnal creatures!

One of the more unusual badger behaviours is the use of above ground 'nests'; large piles of bedding that badgers use. But what are they used for, and when? As part of an MRes study, student Michael wanted to find this out, and along with some Scottish Badgers volunteers, was able to locate and monitor some of these sites. Head over to our blog to find out more about his research and the results from the study.

This coincided nicely with one of our volunteers Lesley, who already was becoming a dab hand at finding these nests and putting out trail cameras to find out more about their use. We wanted to know more from Lesley about this, with a bit of a quickfire Q&A session!


Photo L Stewart

Interviews with a Scottish Badgers volunteer

What started your interest with badgers?

I went on a free Badgers for Beginners 1 day training course with Scottish Badgers and absolutely loved it. Before then like most people the only time I had seen a badger was dead at the roadside. As I learned about their lives and visited their setts that day I fell in love with this most elusive of our British mammals.

Badger nests are not something commonly known about, what got you interested in looking into these specifically?

I learned about nests at the Badgers for Beginners course then I was out on a Scottish Badger survey near my home and we found a nest. I was amazed.  Although it was basically just a big pile of bedding to me it was a thing of great beauty and I wanted to learn all about them. The books said that they are rare and found in remote areas but as time went by I started finding more and more of them and when I got the chance to put trail cameras up at 2 nests I jumped at it.

What are the key features for identifying a badger nest? They look very similar to bedding piles!

Nests are roughly circular with a dent in the middle. The badger digs a wee dent to soften the ground and then places bedding around this. Nests can be made of grass, hay, moss, plastic – whatever is found nearby. Some nests have lots of bedding and some are just a dent in the ground. The shape of the nest and finding badger hairs are the most important features in identifying them. If I’m unsure if I’ve found a nest or not I revisit and if I can put up a trail camera.

What is the most interesting thing you have learnt about badger nests so far?

That they are much more common than people think, they can be found in urban as well as rural areas and that they can be in use all year round. They are basically a sett above the ground so everything that the badgers do underground, they also do in a nest above ground. It was previously thought that above ground nests were only used during the day but that is not what I have observed from watching trail camera footage from 13 nests.

Are there any other sett features or badger behaviour that you are also particularly interested in?

I monitor a sett for Scottish Badgers and for 3 years in a row there have been 2 lots of cubs born in the clan. Badger literature tells us that it is usually only the dominant sow and boar that breed but my trail camera footage has shown otherwise so I think that there is a lot more we can learn about badger behaviour.

To look at some of the footage Lesley has collected showing different behaviours, you can visit her YouTube page - well worth a watch!


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