Living in social groups, badgers make their homes in a series of tunnels and chambers known as setts. Their diet consist mainly of earthworms, but the omnivorous badger will also take mice, rabbits, voles and small insects. Being largely nocturnal, food is gathered at night. Badgers are territorial and prefer well-drained areas, often on the edge of a wood with easy access to feeding areas.
Badgers are rarely aggressive except to other badgers which encroach into their territory, however they are extremely tough and strong – which is one reason why badgers have no natural enemies. It is thought that the distinctive white stripes on a badgers face are a warning sign designed to avoid confrontation. Badgers have only one predator MAN.
Badgers are some of Britain’s best loved, yet most mysterious country inhabitants. They have been part of our heritage for so long that their traditional name ‘Brock’ is known throughout towns and villages.
However, badgers are still in danger. Their natural life-span of 10-15 years has been reduced to just 2 or 3 years. This has been reduced due to continued persecution by badger diggers.
Badger diggers send specially trained terriers to attack badgers in their underground setts, and then dig through the tunnel roof to expose the fight, ending only when the badger is bludgeoned to death with a spade. Or the badger is forced to fight for its life against terriers or lurchers.
The badgers strength and resilience ensures a long battle in which both the badger and the dogs may suffer terrible injuries. It is this bloody combat which the badger diggers find entertaining, but there can be no victory for the badger, it is estimated that diggers now kill as many as 10,000 badgers each year.
With the passage of the Wildlife and Countryside Act in 1981, it is now an offence to be in possession of a badger or any part of a badger. It is now also an offence under the Protection of Badgers Act of 1991 to tamper or dig a badger sett, however fox hunt still block up badger setts the night before the hunt is due but this can only be done under licence.
Today, with the aid of expert witnesses sympathetic to terrier work, those accused are acquitted, using the defence that they were out hunting foxes. Some diggers even take dead foxes or carry fox catching equipment to provide evidence that they are after foxes.
Courts today, however, do have the power to imprison convicted badger diggers or give them a fine and their dogs and digging equipment can even be confiscated. But there is nothing at present to stop the diggers going out and buying more dogs and equipment and continuing to dig for badgers as has proven to be the case in the past.
Badger digging and terrier work
There is a definite link between those who take pleasure in setting their dogs on to legal quarry such as foxes and those who use their dogs to attack badgers. Hunting magazines and books specializing in terrier work often include articles containing grim accounts of battles between dogs and foxes with both combatants receiving horrific injuries. Every year there are accounts of terriers becoming stuck underground, with some never emerging after being left by their so-called friends.
It is also clear from these articles that it is the bravery and gameness of the dogs which attract these people to this sport, gruesome pictures are often included and pride is taken in the number of scars and injuries a dog shows, amongst the adverts in these magazines there can also be found books on badger digging, dog fighting and even cock fighting.
It is not only hunters who kill badgers, each year 1,000’s have been and are still being slaughtered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), who claim that badgers are infected with bovine tuberculosis which is then passed on to cattle.