How bad­gers make scents of their home

Middleton Guardian - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

TO con­clude my short se­ries on bad­gers, at least for now: Of all the senses with which bad­gers are cred­ited, the sense of smell is con­sid­ered par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant and plays a vi­tal role in com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

In or­der to com­mu­ni­cate through their sense of smell bad­gers have sev­eral scent glands which pro­duce a va­ri­ety of odours.

Odours pro­duced through these glands are used as ol­fac­tory (smell) sig­nals and dis­trib­ute cer­tain in­for­ma­tion in­clud­ing warn­ing sig­nals and mat­ing avail­abil­ity.

Scents pro­duced are also used to tighten bonds be­tween so­cial groups and stud­ies sug­gest that each clan mem­ber has a sim­i­lar scent. Pass­ing on this in­for­ma­tion through scent is achieved in a va­ri­ety of ways.

In squat mark­ing bad­gers will briefly dip their rear end down and lift their tail. This is usu­ally done around the sett, on well-used paths and at la­trine sites.

Bad­gers will also scent mark each other through allo-mark­ing, where one bad­ger will scent mark the other.

Allo-mark­ing can take two forms, firstly where one bad­ger will solely mark the other and sec­ondly, where two bad­gers will back up to each other and press their rear ends to­gether.

In the UK, bad­gers live in mixed-sex groups of be­tween four and eight an­i­mals in un­der­ground ‘setts’. A so­cial group living to­gether in the same sett is also known as a ‘clan’ or a ‘cete’. Each clan will have sev­eral setts through­out their ter­ri­tory and will use them at dif­fer­ent times. A main sett is the ‘hub’ of the ac­tiv­ity and is nor­mally oc­cu­pied all year round.

Sev­eral other setts will be dot­ted around the clan’s ter­ri­tory and are used for dif­fer­ent rea­sons - oc­ca­sion­ally as a bolt-hole or by younger mem­bers mov­ing out of the so­cial group.

Bad­gers are com­monly classed as highly so­cial an­i­mals. How­ever, ev­i­dence sug­gests that their so-called so­cial be­hav­iour may only be linked to their living habits and does not rep­re­sent ev­i­dence seen in the field.

While bad­gers tend to live in groups, they do not act co­op­er­a­tively with their fel­low clan mem­bers. There is lit­tle ev­i­dence to sug­gest that bad­gers help other clan mem­bers in find­ing food or de­fend­ing them­selves. So why do they live to­gether?

The most widely recog­nised view to why bad­gers live to­gether is that of avail­abil­ity of ter­ri­tory and food. In Hans Kruuk’s stud­ies of bad­ger diet the Re­source Dis­per­sion Hy­poth­e­sis was put for­ward sug­gest­ing that one bad­ger would need ac­cess to sev­eral dif­fer­ent feed­ing ‘sta­tions’ as the sea­sons changed. There­fore the bad­gers’ ter­ri­tory needs to have a cer­tain amount of feed­ing ‘sta­tions’ to be fruit­ful for the whole year.

It has also been put for­ward that each ‘sta­tion’ can pro­vide food for many bad­gers, at no ad­di­tional cost. This leads to the pre­dic­tion that group size de­pends on the rich­ness of feed­ing sta­tions and their abil­ity to feed sev­eral bad­gers.

An area with valu­able re­sources will be de­fended as a ter­ri­tory. Valu­able re­sources in­clude rich feed­ing ar­eas, good ar­eas of cover (typ­i­cally wood­land) and ac­cess to mat­ing.

Bad­gers have a long history of cru­elty and per­se­cu­tion in the UK span­ning hun­dreds of years. To this day bad­gers re­main one of the most per­se­cuted of all species de­spite hav­ing one of the high­est lev­els of pro­tec­tion in law.

De­spite their pro­tec­tion, thou­sands of bad­gers every year across the UK meet hor­rific fates due to both bar­baric acts of cru­elty and the il­le­gal use of ma­chin­ery in oth­er­wise le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties such as farm­ing. The most preva­lent wildlife crimes in­volv­ing bad­gers are: de­vel­op­ment re­lated, farm­ing re­lated, land clear­ance, shoot­ing, bad­ger bait­ing, poi­son­ing, trap­ping, to name a few.

Keep your eyes open and please re­port any­thing sus­pi­cious to the po­lice.

As hu­mans ‘we’ have not got a great history when it comes to cru­elty to bad­gers but, it doesn’t stop there, be­cause just a small bit of re­search re­veals that a few hun­dred years ago, ‘we’ didn’t stop with bad­gers, and as a na­tion, we baited ev­ery­thing from mon­keys to don­keys, and from bad­gers to, wait for it, hu­mans!

Seems like not much has changed.

Bad­gers have sev­eral scent glands

The Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.