Old One-eye might have left me a sign!
22nd August 2012: Badgers dig latrines that are around 75 mm deep by 100 – 150 mm square. Some are larger, and others are smaller. It depends on the size of the badger I suppose.
Yesterday afternoon I continued my search for signs of Old One-eye by inspecting the animal runs across the lagoon field, around the withy wood and along the boundary fence that borders the east side of the swamp. I found three fresh latrines in separate areas of the field. One of them was definitely dug and used by a large badger. I mapped the route as best I could, but it led onto a wide vehicular access track from which there were quite a few animal runs leading off on both sides into the undergrowth. I wasn’t able to tell which one the badger might have taken. Not to worry, at least I have something to work with.
I am carrying out my search well away from the marsh setts. For one thing, the badgers might not be in residence and if this is so, I don’t want to delay their return by blatantly leaving my calling card on their door steps. The largest latrine is on a run at least half a mile from the setts, so I will use a camera trap to help identify the animals that pass along it. From experience, foxes, badgers and muntjac use each other’s runs, so camera trapping is only one tool in the chest. I already know that a badger has used the track; I just want to know if it’s One-eye.
I’m not sure if a badger latrine in the middle of a run will deter other animals from using the track, or whether the badger will use it again.
When a pheasant uses a badger’s run, for instance, a fox might soon pick up the scent and trot along after it. Even if the scent is fifteen minutes old, the fox will reason that the familiar smell will eventually lead to a welcome meal. This fox behaviour is most apparent after a snowfall. The pheasant’s arrow-like footprints will stretch out into the distance, and alongside them will be the unmistakable paw prints of a fox. The fox knows the pheasant will most likely dawdle, pecking at this and that. All the fox has to do is get its jaws within striking distance. If and when the fox lays eyes on the pheasant, it will size-up the situation and decide upon a strategy. It might move around the bird in a large circle in order to ambush it, as I have witnessed happening often enough on the marsh. It depends on how good a stalker the fox believes itself to be.
An animal picking up my fresh scent might decide not to venture onto a track down which I had recently walked.
The procedure I will follow when placing a camera trap on any animal run, is as follows:
1. To hide my scent I will smear my camera trap with fresh mud, or rub it in the undergrowth.
2. I will approach the run/track diagonally, placing the camera in position as I’m crossing it, without stopping.
I find this technique is particularly useful when placing a camera trap at the start of the day, to be retrieved later when on the way home. If the camera and the local area are smelling strongly of me, I’m not going to get any images.
An animal is less likely to be alerted by human smells if it lives among us; the urban fox being a good example. In an area where human are not so common, a fox or other animal will be alerted by our unfamiliar scent – as a petrol smell in a bedroom might alert us.
Most animals can be conditioned to loose their fear of people.
There were plenty of dragonflies on North Pond today.