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Victim relives badger attack

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14th May 2003 - By Nicola McGann
BBC News Online, Birmingham

A late night encounter with a badger outside his Evesham home seemed harmless at first to Michael Fitzgerald.

But within minutes he was savagely attacked, leaving him with horrific injuries to his arm where his flesh was torn away and in need of skin grafts.

Michael Fitzgerald is recovering at home after going through what he has described as "some kind of hell".

On Friday night he was woken by a noise coming from his garage which he immediately thought was burglars.

When he opened the electronic garage door to investigate, he was confronted by what he thought was a harmless badger.

Mr Fitzgerald, a wildlife photographer who was also involved in setting up the BBC's Countryfile programme, said he had never seen a badger so close before and called for his wife to get a camera.

Within minutes he was left in agony as the badger slowly approached, then attacked him, latching on to his arm and tearing his flesh away.

The house is still spattered with blood and there's a bit of arm flesh on the front door. The whole thing has been traumatic.

"I never envisaged I would be seeing my own insides," he said.

"When you actually see your tendons, muscles and nerves, it looks like wire hanging out.

"I once saw a Spielberg movie where a soldier was shot and he looked at his wound with horror on his face. It is only in the last couple of days I realise just how he managed to capture this."

Mr Fitzgerald eventually managed to shake off the badger, who has been named Boris.

"His razor blade teeth were around my arm and I tried to shake him off and he fell to the floor. I ran inside and he followed me and bit my leg and then grabbed my arm again.

"I managed to throw it away again and get it outside the house."

In shock, Mr Fitzgerald was taken to Worcester Royal Infirmary by ambulance and he was then transferred to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham where he was treated by specialist surgeons.

Badgers are usually wary of humans

"Beyond having my arm torn, I had to think whether the badger could be rabid or if it was carrying any other diseases."

Mr Fitzgerald had to have an operation for two skin grafts on his arm and one on his leg. He has also had stitches to wounds he received.

He was only allowed home from hospital on Tuesday but will have to return on Thursday to have his dressings changed. Surgeons say it could take up to two months before his arm begins to heal.

"The house is still spattered with blood and there's a bit of arm flesh on the front door. The whole thing has been traumatic," he said.

"I have two cocker spaniels at home which were thankfully in bed when this happened otherwise I don't think they would be alive.

"Everything I have read about badgers says these animals avoid human contact and in normal circumstances would be harmless."

Despite his experience, Mr Fitzgerald said he would try not to be wary of the animals.

"There is going to be a degree of apprehension but I would like to think I am intelligent enough to know this is a one-off. I think this was a badger who had human contact before."

The National Federation of Badger Groups (NFBG) has advised people against the domestication of badgers.

It has warned members of the public who feed badgers in their gardens not to provide too much food, so that the badgers do not become dependant, and not to hand-feed the animals and risk being bitten.

However, the NFBG says it has no records at all of wild badgers biting people except when injured or trapped.

Elaine King, chief executive of the NFBG said: "Boris' behaviour was quite unlike that of a wild badger, which would have an instinctive fear of humans."

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