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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, in which to deposit their often stodgy 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 diet. 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

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.

Find out more about New Forest badgers

Badger watching - including a fascinating video shot in the New Forest

References:
The Natural History of Badgers, Ernest Neal
Collins Field Guide to the Mammals of Britain and Europe: David Macdonald and Priscilla Barrett
Collins Guide to Animal Tracks and Signs: Preben Bang and Preben Dahlstrom

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** New Forest ponies **
New Forest ponies in the road
Ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but during the first six months of 2018, 36 animals were killed or injured on Forest roads, compared with 26 in the same period in 2017, a shocking rise of 38%. And in the full year, 63 animals were killed on the roads compared to 56 in 2017.
** Always take care when driving **
New Forest seasonal highlights
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.

July
Silver-washed fritillary butterflies brighten many woodland rides.
Bird song subsides as the annual moult begins, old worn feathers are cast off and new replacements grown.
Wild gladiolus plants bloom. (In the UK, this species is found only in the New Forest).
Dragonflies and Damselflies take to the wing in ever increasing numbers.
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley