Volunteer badger surveys - success with new finds!
As the wind and rain batters Scotland once again, we've had to cancel a few of our group badger surveys in recent weeks. This is a real pity as we've been making great progress on locating new setts through our Autumn/Winter 2015 volunteer surveys. Elaine Rainey, our Development Officer, reports on one such survey:
We had received reports of a well used latrine site in the Stirling area, next to a footbridge over a burn. We had existing records of a few setts within reasonable distance to this spot, plus a number of road death reports in the vicinity over the years.
Plotting this all on a map made us realise that this latrine site might well be a boundary latrine, with the burn demarcating the edge of a territory between different badger social groups. Going with this theory, it felt like there was more to be found in the area so we added the site to our group badger survey schedule.
So on a (very!) wet Saturday in late-November a group of eight volunteer surveyors, including Rangers from Stirling Council, headed out to start the survey. When we got to the crossing point on burn (pictured above), we quickly spotted the well used latrine (pictured below). We headed off in different directions from that point, walking all the fence lines (with one surveyor on each side to make sure we didn't miss anything).
Our surveyors quickly picked up on signs of badgers moving through the survey site, namely crossing points under fence lines with badger guard hairs caught on the barbed wire (pictured below). There was also plenty of evidence of possible latrine sites on field boundaries and next to gates, although at this time of year we would not expect them all to be in use. This information was all marked on a map to build up a picture of how the badgers might be using the site and to give us clues as to the likely direction of setts.
One of our experienced surveyors spotted a patch of gorse in the middle of a field and promptly headed across to check it out. Setts in gorse can be difficult to find and although there may be plenty of paths around the gorse to suggest badgers are going in and out, actually finding the sett in there can be tricky! Luckily enough, we spotted what appeared to be a series of spoil heaps visible beneath the stand of gorse. With a quick check we found badger guards hairs in the spoil heaps, thus starting the process of recording the sett using our standard sett recording form (pictured below).
We continued across the survey site and found a further two setts, plus the direction of the paths gave us an indication of where further setts might be. There is more work to be done on this site in the New Year but we were delighted with what we have found so far through just one day of surveying and enough enthusiastic volunteers to cover a sizeable area! And all this from a report of a latrine!
If you would be interested in helping out with our group badger surveys, please check the Events Calendar for dates/locations and get in touch with our Development Officer to book your place. We still have spots on some of the remainder of our 2015 surveys and we will be issuing our survey schedule for the first part of 2016 in January. Thanks to all our volunteers who have helped out thus far!