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Pony near Hampton Ridge
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Badger field signs

Learn to recognise badger field signs, and enjoy a sense of close proximity to badgers without ever seeing the animals.

Here are some examples of what to look out for:

Badger setts

Badger sett and skull on a spoil heap

Badger setts often have a large number of entrances - sometimes in excess of 40. To assist drainage, Badger setts are often on sloping ground, and in the New Forest, many are near grassland or cultivated land which provides a better prospect of food than the relatively infertile New Forest soils.

Badger sett entrances are noticeably bigger than rabbit burrow entrances. Spoil heaps, too, are often large, with furrows down the centre that mark the route used during excavation and subsequent, repeated Badger passage.

Badger-created undulations are often visible on both sloping and otherwise flat ground – these are the sites of old spoil heaps.

Look out, too, on the spoil heaps for bones excavated from deep underground where past Badger generations have died.

Badger latrines

Badger latrine

Badgers are tidy animals that use shallow pits, latrines, sometimes repeatedly, in which to deposit their often squishy droppings. These latrines are often located near the sett, and also occur around territory boundaries where they give notice of occupation to potential badger intruders.

Content and appearance of badger droppings reflect the diet of these animals- they are omnivorous feeders that will eat just about anything edible. Earthworms are perhaps their favourite food, but berries, grasses, invertebrates and, when available, birds’ eggs will all be taken with enthusiasm.

Two examples are illustrated here. The first is fairly typical, whilst the second, containing large numbers of beetle wing cases, is much less so.

Badger latrine - droppings containing countless beetle wing-cases

(Fox droppings, in contrast, are often fairly firm, relatively slender, quite long, cylindrical in shape and significantly tapered at the ends, although this is not always the case as, after a period of time, the weather might influence the appearance of the droppings, whilst the fox'es recent feeding habits will also be reflected in the characteristics of its faeces).

Badger paw prints

Badger paw print

Badgers are stocky animals that leave relatively large footprints. The outline of all five toes is often visible, whilst strong, lengthy claws usually leave deep gouge marks in the mud.

Look out also for Badger claw marks on tree trunks and stumps around the sett – Badgers habitually leave deep scratches in fallen and standing timber.

Badger passage places under fences

Badger trail below a fence

Badgers are incredibly strong, habitual diggers. Much to the annoyance of owners, fences are regularly dug through or under. On regularly used routes, blocking the way – as has been attempted here with the right-hand gap – is often to no avail as the Badger simply digs and damages again.

Hedgehog remains

Badger prey remains - hedgehog skin

In Britain, badgers are one of the hedgehog’s few, regular natural predators. Look out for hedgehog skins and spines, the remains of a tasty badger meal.

Honeycombs

Remains of a badger feast - a honeycomb

Badgers regularly attack bees’ nests – the Badgers eat the larvae, pupae and stored honey, and leave damaged honeycombs as evidence of their work.

Further information and a variety of fascinating badger videos

Badgers - a general introduction
Badger field signs - look out for evidence of badger presence in the countryside
Badger watching - a guide to watching badgers
Badger behaviour - an introduction to a series of badger behaviour videos, mostly shot in the New Forest, and lots more information about badgers
Badger's setts - situation, size, tunnelling and excavation (videos)
Emergence from the sett - times of emergence and factors influencing variation (videos)
Grooming and mutual grooming - badgers grooming themselves and each other (videos)
Scent marking - badgers scent marking their nearest and dearest, and also their territory (videos)
Badger bedding - essential comfort for a good day's sleep (videos)
Play fighting amongst the cubs - high jinks by the sett, but also preparation for later life (videos)
Badger fights / badgers fighting - potentially vicious affairs (videos)
Badgers and foxes together - an often uncomfortable relationship (videos)
Disturbance at badger setts - by people, cats, dogs and passing foxes (videos)
Other animals in the sett, and animal passers-by - shared living space, rabbits, mice, deer, ponies and more (videos)

References:
The Natural History of Badgers, Ernest Neal
Badgers: Ernest Neal and Chris Cheeseman
Darkness Is Light Enough: Chris Ferris
Out of the Darkness: Chris Ferris
Eileen Soper's Badgers
Mammals of Britain and Europe: David Macdonald and Priscilla Barrett

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** New Forest ponies and other animals**
The New Forest
Commoners' ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but during 2019 agisters attended 159 road traffic accidents involving these animals, a small but disappointing increase on the 154 accidents attended in 2018.

Sadly, 58 animals were killed - 35 ponies, 13 cows, 8 donkeys and 2 sheep, whilst a further 32 were injured - 3 pigs, 9 donkeys, 11 cows and 9 ponies.

(Forty-three accidents occurred in daylight, 15 at twilight and 101 in the dark. Twenty-seven accidents were not reported by the driver involved).

Here's just one horrific example - Three donkeys killed in collision with van at notorious New Forest blackspot (Advertiser and Times)
** Always take care when driving **
New Forest seasonal highlights
May
Bluebells and other wild flowers brighten the woods, usually in relatively small numbers.
Bird song can be heard throughout the day but is at its loudest at dawn and, to a lesser extent, dusk.
Foals are born in increasing numbers and can be seen beside ever-attentive mares.
Dragonflies are more frequently observed on the wing as spring progresses.

June
Badgers can now often be watched above ground well before darkness falls.
Deer - fallow, red, roe, sika and muntjac deer are all present - give birth, although the youngsters are unlikely to be noticed until July.
Heath spotted-orchids add delicate pink colour to many of the heaths.
Hobbies, dashing birds of prey, can often be seen aloft, hawking for insects.
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley