The Badgers at Brodick Castle
by Jackie Kemp, Arran Ranger
Although badgers are found throughout the United Kingdom, they are not native to the Isle of Arran. So, when did they arrive and where did they come from? Articles dating from the end of the 19th century indicate badgers were introduced to Glen Sannox around 1895, and more recently, genetics research of Isle of Arran badgers in 2017 considered that our badgers most likely originated from the area to the south of the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, between the villages of Beith and Giffordland. However, it is currently not known who owned that land, or who transported the badgers to the Isle of Arran.
Now that we have some knowledge of their origins on Arran, how do you get to see these shy, sensitive creatures of the night? At Arran Ranger Service we put in many hours and evenings getting to know our nocturnal neighbours. We brushed up on our badger field skills to identify a suitable feeding area, then, armed with unsalted peanuts, a trail camera, patience and midge spray we staked out the feeding area waiting patiently, expectantly, for our field skills to be proved correct.
It didn’t take long to establish that our field work had paid off, our trail camera captured many images of badgers foraging busily in the wee small hours, but this was just the first phase of our badger watch project. Next, we had to try to tempt them to appear at a more audience friendly time of evening, this took many more evenings of trial and error with offerings of peanuts and trail camera monitoring until we were confident that the badgers were active in the feeding area when we wanted them to be, namely, around dusk. So, that was it, or was it?
Badgers are extremely sensitive to human presence, with a sense of smell and hearing many hundreds of times more sensitive than humans, our next task was to habituate them to our presence in the immediate vicinity of the feeding area. This meant being present and monitoring their behaviour whilst they were foraging. How would they react? Would our presence nearby undo our previous work and deter them from foraging where & when we wanted them to? Badgers are creatures of habit, this, combined with the lure of unsalted peanuts was too compelling for them, and again, after many more evenings waiting patiently in the feeding area we were repeatedly rewarded with close encounters of a badger kind.
Since that intense period of badger work in the summer of 2017 we have been able to provide public badger watch evenings for visitors to Brodick and at the start of the 2018 season we took our Young Naturalist Club on a badger watch which again proved to be a huge success as our excited youngsters sat wide eyed in the dusky woodland as two badgers foraged and snuffled a couple of metres away around the feeding area.
For more details of upcoming badger watch events, please contact the Arran Ranger Service on 01770 302462 or check out events list on the Arran Ranger Service Facebook page.