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RSPB Spotlight on Badgers book
James Lowen explores the lives of badgers and their communal living, feeding habits and threats to their conservation. Click here to buy:
Paperback edition
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The summer of 2003 was one of the longest, hottest and driest for many years; and there were reports of badgers doing strange things - such as coming out of their setts in the early afternoon, and even entering garages, sheds, houses and even ground-floor bathrooms! Such strange behaviour may be seen in very rare cases at any time, but the greater frequency was believed to be that badgers were getting extremely dehydrated because of the lack of wet food and streams, ponds and puddles being dried up.

One of the most useful things gardeners can do for wildlife (of any kind); is to have a fresh supply of water. How you do this is down to you. Some people like to leave out metal bowls of clean water in warm summer evenings, whereas other like to have a small shallow pond with some sort of pumped water supply (or even a temporary hosepipe). In short, having fresh water in your garden (or on your golf-course or farm) will normally do wonders for lots of different types of wildlife.

If you are worried about "wasting" water or the cost of water used if you are on a water meter, remember that you can still have a small pond with a fountain; and the water can be re-circulated within the pond. The only "waste" is what evaporates and what the animals drink.

Remember too that badgers which are dehydrated will also be very determined to get at wet food; and will be tempted to dig up lawns and flowerbeds to get at worms, beetles, bulbs roots and tubers; and may make very determined efforts to route through bins. By having a ground-level water supply, you might save yourself a lot of garden or crop damage.

The next time you are watering the garden just after the sun has gone down, think about the wildlife in your garden. An upturned old dustbin lid or a shallow (i.e. cut down) washing up bowl in a quiet corner might help your garden visitors if they are thirsty. Badgers also drink from tree boles, so topping those up may help too.

In terms of feeding badgers, fresh water is perfect. Some people unwisely leave out dishes of milk or cream. This is generally OK for badgers, but harmful for hedgehogs. Hedgehogs can not digest cows milk or dairy products. Eating too much milk or cream will damage a hedgehog's digestive system. Unfortunately, the hedgehog doesn't know this; and will eat or drink it anyway; and will eventually become ill. In short, do not leave out milk or cream or any other dairy product.

Wildlife species - including badgers will come to rely on large handouts; so you should be careful to plan in advance. Make sure if you feed large amounts that you can always do this, so you will need to be sure of reliable holiday "cover" for when you are away.

If you are interested in leaving out food for the badgers, then have a look at our Feeding page.

Wildlife Diseases

If you want to attempt to civilise them (by providing a bowl), then use one of more METAL dog-type bowls, which are difficult to tip over (e.g. one for water and one for food). Badgers may be very rough with bowls - for example, biting them, kicking them, clawing at them and even using them in tug-of-war fights, and CERAMIC OR GLASS BOWLS WILL GET BROKEN eventually.

To avoid the possibility of cross-contamination, have "badger-only" bowls; and wash them separately from items used for people or other pets.

Using rubber-gloves, clean the dishes using very hot water with a decent quantity of soap/detergent.

Use a badger-only dishcloth and tea-towel; and follow strict hygiene precautions. This is especially important if any of the following apply:

  • you have any babies or young children
  • you have any-one who is or may be pregnant
  • you have any-one who is elderly or infirm
  • you have any-one who may have a suppressed immune system

Note that this advice does not mean to imply that badgers are riddled with disease - it's just pragmatic, common-sense advice to be followed if you come into contact with any animal species.

"(I was) learning to distinguish one footfall from another. The one which gave me least trouble was the imminent arrival of the badger, for certainly in this neck of the woods he is its heaviest-footed inmate, careless almost, doubtless because his natural environment holds no terrors for him. ... now I was certain a badger was coming my way"
Jim Crumley

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