Week in and week out, I’m inundated with emails and messages asking for tips and advice on both finding and photographing Badgers; It’s great to see so many people passionate and excited to see and photograph these incredible animals, but it’s important to approach this sort of project in the right way! With this in mind, I’ve decided to put together this small guide for people to consider before starting out!
This will undoubtably be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. Badger setts are not necessarily the easiest things to find if you’re not sure what you’re looking for, but even if you do you’ve got to find the RIGHT sett. There will be several things to consider when it comes to finding a suitable site;
– What’s the risk of other people seeing you there?
– What’s the risk of disturbance (roads, dog walkers, hikers etc)?
– Is there anywhere suitable for you to sit to watch them without causing disturbance?
– How easy is it to access?
With Badger persecution on the rise throughout the UK, it’s very important that you work at a sett with an extremely low risk of other people seeing the Badgers. There will also be a higher risk of this happening if people see and approach you out of curiosity!
To Flash or not to Flash
Badgers are nocturnal, meaning they are mostly active at night! With this in mind, there can be a great temptation to use a flash to capture them, but it’s very important to consider this and the potential implications. Badgers do NOT depend on their eyesight, meaning that it’s very unlikely that using a flash will negatively impact their ability to move around and forage, however what flash can do is terrify the living daylights out of a Badger who does not expect a random burst of light in the middle of the night.
It’s also important to consider the legal protection currently in place for Badgers. The official guidelines in place state that ‘additional light’ can harm Badgers, therefore potentially putting you on the wrong side of the law (see here). Whilst it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be arrested and charged for photographing a Badger with flash, it’s important to know the current legislation in place. My personal belief is that if a Badger is used to artificial light (urban Badgers), using flash is far less likely to cause stress and disturbance than a rural Badger. If photographing rural Badgers, a gradual introduction to light is important, but also be extremely careful that this light isn’t easily visible to roads or homes, as it may again attract unwanted attention from other people.
To feed or not to feed
Feeding or not feeding the Badgers is your own personal preference, but it’s important to once again consider the potential implications. I personally only feed them when they’re experiencing harsh or unusual conditions that will be making their normal foraging difficult (i.e. long dry spells or cold snaps where the ground is frozen).
– You don’t want to make the Badgers dependant on you, so if you do choose to feed them, only give very small amounts.
– Feed them NATURAL foods. Peanuts, acorns, berries, fruit etc. Avoid dog food, bread etc.
Keep it quiet!!
I have seen first hand what can happen at a Badger sett when the word gets out and too many people start to visit. Whilst it’s understandable that people may want to see Badgers and photograph them, when numerous people start to visit it can cause excessive disturbance to the Badgers, along with having no control over what the Badgers are fed and how other people behave in or around the area. There’s also the risk of the information falling into the wrong hands, such as Badger baiters. As tempting as it may be, do NOT share locations with other people. The Badgers will thank you for it!
General Etiquette at Setts
So you’ve found a sett and you’re ready to start watching or photographing the resident Badgers; fantastic! There’s just a few last things to consider to ensure that you don’t disturb or upset them and therefore, get great natural images!
– Hide! Make sure you keep quiet, stay still and wear dull coloured clothing. If you’re able to sit in front or behind something that will obscure the general shape of your body it will help to minimise the risk of the Badgers noticing you.
– Sit far back, at least 15m from any sett entrances and make sure the wind is not blowing your scent towards the entrances. You may not realise you’re disturbing the Badgers because they know you’re around before they even appear above ground and you’re potentially responsible for keeping them under.
– Use a silent shutter or quiet shutter on your camera; do NOT use a high speed burst.
– Ensure that you have an easy route of escape for when you’ve finished watching the Badgers. It’s not fair to disturb them just because you’re done for the day, so try and make sure your route is clear of obstacles (noisy twigs/leaves etc) and take your time. If the Badgers leave or go back underground use the opportunity to make a swift exit.