Badger - Blaireau
We not infrequently see roe deer (chevreuil) on our pasture and hares from time to time lollop across, But it is rarely that we see any other mammals. We know the sanglier are there, because the chasseurs whom we accept on our land, have given us joints of both sanglier and chrevreuil. Extremely rarely we have seen a fox. And I began to doubt the existence of the badger until recently.
For some weeks now holes have appeared in the corner of a field. I first thought that they were rabbit scrapings, though rabbits are otherwise less evident than hares. I suspected badger but was not convinced. Then I saw a dead badger by the side of a nearby road. After that I took a greater interest in the holes. I am now certain that they are together a badger latrine. At intervals of a few days one or more badgers defaecate in these holes. The form of the droppings is like that of a dog. They usually have a yellowish colour and a number are very gritty. They make no attempt to fill in the holes.
Badgers are creatures of habit. They make a a regular 'beat' of their territory and create paths through the woods. With a length of 90 centimetres and a weight of 30 kilos the animal usually makes obvious paths. To find the sett (the terroir) it should be possible to follow one back from the latrine. I fairly easily found a path in the wood and followed it for several hundred yards. It went under a wire fence and on that I found a badger hair caught in the wire. Soon after that it became impossible for me to follow through the dense undergrowth. I have yet to find the sett, which I know could be over a kilometre away. In the winter males can live in individual holes but they will reassemble in spring.
Badger latrines are of two kinds. Some are close to the sett; others, like mine, are markers of the limits of their territory. They are largely carnivorous feeding on worms (probably their main food), beetles, mice but also bulbs and roots with a quantity of adherent soil, thus making the dropings soft and gritty. They are the only mammal which can unroll a hedgehog using its long claws for that purpose. Hedgehogs are I regret, another unseen, perhaps unknown mammal in this area!