RSPB England Communications Officer, Sydney Henderson, delves into the world of badger watching, on her own quest to see a badger…

I want to see a badger. For many people, the badger is the quintessential British mammal. In children’s bedtime stories, they are often written about as human-like characters, (known as anthropomorphism) meaning I grew up with the idea of badgers as a friendly neighbour, a kind of art deco dog.

Yet like many other young people who grew up in cities, I have never seen a badger. While those living in the countryside might be lucky enough to spot badgers while driving down country lanes after dark, for those living in urban areas, they really are the stuff of legends

And so began my great British badger quest. I started off as any millennial would, by sending some texts. This also included discovering the badger emoji, which now has a firm position in my most used emojis.

Above: The beginnings of a badger quest. Thank you to my two friends.

Unsurprisingly, Google proved much more helpful. Badgers, as the RSPB website informed me, are common throughout Britain. They live in family groups in a series of underground chambers, called setts, which are often used by successive generations. They emerge at dusk to spend the night foraging for food and playing, which strengthens their social bonding.

Further investigation revealed that badgers commonly inhabit woodlands and open grassland and are most active at this time of year, as playful cubs explore the outside world. They can’t see very well, but have an excellent sense of smell, which helps them to avoid humans.

Badgers are often are very timid. I learnt that if you find an active sett, you should aim to get there an hour before dusk, settle into a good spot and be prepared to be very patient. You may have to visit a few times before you finally spot a badger, and take care not to disturb them if you do get lucky!

Unfortunately, all my forays into nearby woodlands proved unsuccessful. And being in the woods, alone at dusk, gave me the creeps (note to self: do not watch The Blair Witch Project before going on a badger quest). Despite an unsuccessful quest in terms of badgers, my night-time skulking was rewarded with a close-up encounter with my first ever hedgehog!

Above left to right: Cow (not a badger), wild raspberries (badger quest snacks), and my nearby woodland.

Instead, I’ve decided to treat myself to the ultimate badger experience; I’m booking a session in the badger hide at Haweswater. It’s just relaunched for exclusive use by small groups or individuals, so I will be gathering my two friends and continuing the quest! This time hopefully with better luck….

For more information and to book:

Quick Badger Facts:

Best time to see badgers: Dusk, June and July

Where to see badgers: Woodland and grassland. Look out for setts and droppings.

Above: Badger at Haweswater. Credit: Cain Scrimgeour