in badger sightings is giving cause for concern
2 Feb 2004 - Strathspey and Badenoch
BADGER numbers in Badenoch and Strathspey appear to be in serious
decline, according to recently published figures.
Although the number of visitors to the Strathspey Badger Hide by the
River Spey near Boat of Garten was up to 812 (129 visits to the hide)
over the past year, the number of badger sightings was well down on
In the past year, a total of 342 badgers were seen with the maximum on
one night being four compared to 2000 when there were 406 sightings of
badgers, but just 543 visitors (96 visits) and up to eight badgers were
seen on a single night.
Mr Allan Bantick, manager of the hide and a badger expert, has blamed
climate change and an associated shortage of food for the fall in badger
numbers. Commenting on the end of year figures, he said:
"The badgers have had a tough time of it this year, and although
there has been a slight increase in the average number of badgers seen
per night at the hide in the past year, our numbers are still well below
those of a few years ago. We now believe climate change to be a major factor in this. Hot,
dry springs and summers have caused a shortage of worms, which normally
form a major part of the badger's diet, both for food and water. This deprivation has resulted in a significant drop in badger
breeding success right across the UK.
A high percentage of cubs born in the last two or three years have died
of starvation because their parents could not feed them.
"This situation has been made worse by badgers having to forage
further afield than normal for food and water and being knocked down by
cars on roads that they would not normally need to cross. Some of these road victims are collected for examination, and it
is clear from the thin, dehydrated condition of some of these animals
that they were starving. In one pathetic case the badger only weighed
five kilogrammes, which is less than half of what it should have weighed
at that time of year."
However, Mr Bantick said that those who had visited the hide had not
been disappointed this year.
"Our guests were entertained brilliantly by the few badgers that we
have, " he said. "At various times we have seen the badgers
mating, fighting, playing, tunnelling, changing the bedding, marking
each other and having a good scratch. Our guests comprised a similar mix to previous years with the
usual organisations and businesses making block bookings to include an
evening of badger watching in their programmes."
Regular groups to visit the hide included the Heatherlea Birdwatching
Centre, Moray Firth Wildlife Centre, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation
Society and the RSPB. However, the largest group of users was the general public.
Other species seen from the hide included mice, voles, shrews, foxes,
mink, otters, pine martens, roe deer, hares, bats, tawny owls, barn
owls, long-eared owls, little owls, buzzards, kestrels, ospreys and
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