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Walkers On The Path

2nd of May 2001

Now that our footpath is closed due to Foot and Mouth restrictions, it is easier to see who or what has been using it during the night. Badgers have a regular route that crosses it but now we can see that they use its whole length. Some very clear tracks have been left in the soft mud, all the badgers five toes being clearly visible. The sow badgers will have given birth to their cubs at the beginning of February and wont go far from the set to forage for food. But the boar badgers will be keen to scent mark the boundaries of their territory as the females will be ready to mate again soon after the arrival of the cubs and they wont want any interlopers nipping in after their wives. All the wet weather we have had has made digging easier for the badgers but I imagine it must be a job for them to find fresh bedding just now. Unlike foxes earths, which can be smelly, dirty places, badgers are much more house-proud, bringing their bedding above ground to air on dry days and using a regular latrine a short distance away from the set.
The badgers main food is earth worms but they also enjoy the grubs and beetles that live in dead wood and they have been busy scratching an old fallen apple tree trunk in the garden. Our son John used to use it as a seat when he and his friends had campfire picnics but now its the badgers turn to dine. They have also enjoyed a fair few peanuts lately as a wicked squirrel has recently nibbled the bottom of the bird feeder and let all the nuts out. There may be half a pound on the ground at dusk but they are all gone by morning!
We are most grateful that people have respected the Foot and Mouth restrictions, although we have only six sheep and one goat and dont rely on them for a living, they are just as precious to us as dogs are to their owners, (in fact one or two of them seem to think that they are dogs!) and we are anxious to reduce the risk of infection to them as much as we can. These are worrying times for all keepers of cloven-hoofed animals.
Wendy Bathurst

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