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How the Lancashire Wildlife Trust is working to avoid a badger cull in the north of England

PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 April 2017

4 Badger cubs will be around in early spring in your local woods and forests Photo: Darin Smith

4 Badger cubs will be around in early spring in your local woods and forests Photo: Darin Smith

Darin Smith info@wildstock.co.uk

Badgers are an iconic, native species in Lancashire and the Lancashire Wildlife Trust is doing all it can to protect them. Campaigns Officer Alan Wright gets a perspective from inside the sett.

Badgers are shy and secretive animalsBadgers are shy and secretive animals

THE badger cull and bovine TB continue to be big news in the South West, but here in Lancashire we are hoping for a consensus to ensure there is a fairer way to solve this problem, one which doesn’t involve blaming badgers.

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust, along with other Wildlife Trusts across the country, is trying to encourage the farming community to carry out all of the necessary testing procedures on their cattle in order to try to prevent the disease becoming established in cattle in our area.

The worry is that if this should happen, then not only will it have a dramatic effect on the livelihood of our rural community, but there is also the possibility that the disease will spread into our wildlife. If this should happen then vaccination of badgers is one possible way of reducing the threat. This is being promoted by the Wildlife Trusts nationally.

Our chief executive, Anne Selby, is a farmer’s daughter and we have our own herds of conservation cattle, so we are not biased against farmers or towards the badgers. We believe the cull does not stack up enough scientific evidence to continue when there are better alternatives to try to solve this problem.

Our badgers have had a hard enough time as the region’s historical reputation for cruelty in the form of badger baiting still hangs over us today. This month we are celebrating the work of our friends from The Lancashire Badger Group, which has been protecting badgers in our region for 50 years.

Both the Wildlife Trust and the Badger Group have helped to create perfect habitats for these magnificent mammals. We have kept a close eye on numbers, protected setts and attempted to ensure developments do not encroach on badger territory.

Don't be surprised to see young badgers playfully romping through a wood by Darin SmithDon't be surprised to see young badgers playfully romping through a wood by Darin Smith

We need to celebrate the badger – our largest land predator. It is amazing that a creature which can grow to the size of a German shepherd dog lives unnoticed in our woodlands. In fact, the majority of people will only have seen dead badgers by the roadside.

The badger is as common as the red fox but it is nocturnal and spends most of its time in and around a burrow system known as a sett. Badgers are tidy creatures leaving used bedding, normally leaves and hay, outside the hole and creating toilets in nearby pits. They feed on small mammals, eggs, worms, fruit and bulbs.

Cubs are born in January and February but are unlikely to leave the sett for a few months, emerging in late spring. While the average lifespan is just three years, badgers have been known to reach 13 or 14 in the wild.

For anyone who doesn’t know, badgers are large and grey, with short tails, a black belly and paws. They have striking black and white striped faces. They can grow up to 1.2 metres in length and attain weights of 17kg or two and a half stone.

I have been lucky enough to visit a Lancashire Badger Group hide to watch badgers in the wild. As night crept in the badgers crept out, first a formidable older male and then a younger male and female. They brought that woodland to life and gave their audience immense please for many minutes.

While we still believe it is better to keep wraps on most of the badger woodlands in the region, people tend to know where their local badgers live. Woods with slopes offer good areas for badgers to make a home. Coppicing and clearing of this woodland by Wildlife Trust volunteers has created better habitats.

David Beattie Photo: Alan WrightDavid Beattie Photo: Alan Wright

The Lancashire Badger Group and the Lancashire Wildlife Trust need the support of our members and countryside lovers to ensure that we do the right thing for our badgers.

We need to support the farming industry in their efforts to keep bovine TB out of Lancashire and the North West. We need them to continue to focus on the testing and correct care of their stock. This is a campaign against bovine TB not badgers or farmers.

We all want to keep our cattle and wildlife healthy and know that if the disease does get into our badgers then culling is definitely not the answer.

The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside manages around 40 nature reserves and 20 local nature reserves covering acres of woodland, wetland, upland and meadow. The Trust has 28,000 members, and over 1,200 volunteers.

To become a member go to www.lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129.

NATURE MOMENT

In the first of our monthly features, David Beattie tells Alan Wright of his encounter with a badger

‘A number of years ago I was involved in surveying for woodcock. We had gone just before dusk to both listen and look for this bird. Sitting at the edge of a wooded valley we waited patiently for them to make an appearance. As darkness descended, we heard the unmistakable call of this secretive bird and then another sound.

‘We held our breath hardly daring to make a sound. In the undergrowth the noise of crashing and occasional snuffling was intriguing. What could it be?

‘Then we saw something we had not expected - two badgers trotting through the clearing, then pausing to sniff the ground and the air.

‘I almost had to bite my lip to stop myself shouting with delight. My first sighting of a creature that had proved so elusive up to that point. It also gave me a passion to be involved in protecting badgers.’

Great grandfather David has been involved with Lancashire Wildlife Trust for nearly 30 years. Ten years after retirement, he is the Wildlife Watch (children’s club) co-ordinator for Lancashire, a Watch leader and a guided walk leader at Brockholes. He also leads the pram walk once a month.

David is chair of Lancashire Badger Group, chairman of the Friends of Cuerden Valley Park and the North West regional co-ordinator for A Rocha UK.

Celebrating 25 years this year, the Lancashire Badger Group is a registered charity which is dedicated to the conservation and protection of the eurasian/european badger (Meles meles), working in Lancashire to raise awareness and provide information and education.

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