How and where to see badgers

Increase your chance of seeing a badger in the wild with these tops tips from the Jack Reedy at the Badger Trust.

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By far the most exciting way to watch badgers is to search for an active sett – look for piles of fresh spoil outside, well-worn paths and a latrine pit full of droppings. The telltale signs of these enchanting mammals are far less attractive than the badgers themselves!

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Alternatively, ask people living near woodland if they know of a sett you can visit (obtain permission if it’s not on a public right of way), or see if your local badger group arranges guided walks. For the luxury experience, book an evening in a dedicated hide or stay in accommodation with illuminated badger-watching facilities.

European badger (Meles meles) at sunset
Woodland badger at sunset. © Damian Kuzdak/Getty

7 BADGER WATCHING TIPS

1

Wear the right clothing for badger watching

Pack a waterproof and extra layers, a hat and gloves in a rucksack – it quickly gets chilly after dark. In summer, take insect repellent. For badger watching, the best binoculars are lower-magnification models (such as 7 or 8x) with wide objective lenses (42–55mm), because these tend to produce a brighter image in low light.

2

Get to the badger sett nice and early

Stealthily approach your chosen sett an hour or so before dusk. Don’t flash lights unnecessarily in case people living nearby report suspicious behaviour to the police.

3

Position yourself well

Pick a comfortable spot, with the sett at least 10m in front of you and your back to a tree or hedge, to avoid the badgers seeing you outlined against the sky. Ensure that the wind is on your face so that you’re downwind of the sett.

A badger taking a look around its forest home
A badger taking a look around its forest home. © Damian Kuzdak/Getty
4

Stay still and smell natural

Badgers have phenomenal hearing and powerful noses, so avoid perfume or aftershave, and don’t rustle clothing, snap twigs, cough, sneeze, whisper or smoke.

5

Use torches carefully

Take a torch with a dimmer function, and set the brightness as low as possible; some people also advise a red light. When badgers appear, shine the beam upwards at first, then lower it gradually, but only as far as necessary.

Badger coming down to a pond to drink at night.
Badger coming down to a pond to drink at night. © Fabrizio Moglia
6

Don’t disturb the badgers

Take pictures at the end of your session in case the sound of your camera frightens the badgers away, and don’t leave the sett area until they have finally dispersed to forage.

7

Badger watching requires patience

Sometimes badgers simply hide, but don’t give up! Aim to visit the sett several nights in a row – that way, you should get lucky on at least one evening. For more expert advice, download the PDF Tips for Badger Watchers from www.badgertrust.org.uk/_Attachments/Resources/56_S4.pdf

European Badger (Meles meles) on an evening stroll
European Badger on an evening stroll. © Kristian Bell/Getty

WHERE TO LOOK FOR BADGERS

Badgers are widely distributed in Britain and Ireland, being absent only from parts of the Scottish Highlands and from offshore islands, including the Isle of Man. Estimates of the UK’s badger population vary widely; the last official survey, 16 years ago, arrived at a figure of 350,000 individuals – the largest national total in Europe.

Most rural woodlands will have a badger sett hidden away somewhere, and there are even some small urban badger populations if you know where to look. But if you want the best possible chance of seeing badgers, here are some of the best sites in the UK.

Urban European badger (Meles meles) in London
An urban badger in London. © Damian Kuzdak/Getty

Badger-watching hides and accommodation

Remember to check activity before planning a visit. A comprehensive list is at www.badgertrust.org.uk/_Attachments/Resources/285_S4.pdf

Badenoch and Strathspey

Strathspey Badger Hide, Boat of  Garten 01479 831768; allanbantick@cairngormwildlife.co.uk

Dumfries and Galloway

WWT Caerlaverock (self-catering) www.wwt.org.uk/visit/caerlaverock

North Yorkshire

Dalby Forest, near Scarborough 01723 882295; brockview@live.co.uk

Badger cub (Meles meles) emerging from ferns on the edge of oak woodland
Badger cub coming out of oak woodland. © James Warwick/Getty

Cheshire

Wirral and Cheshire Badger Group www.wcbg.org.uk

Pembrokeshire

Cwm Connell Farm, Moylegrove 01239 881691; www.cwmconnell.co.uk

Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire Badger Group 01453 750164

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Cornwall

Church Cottages, Bude 07852 486197; www.wild-trevigue.co.uk