Badgers can be found in deciduous woodland, farmland, some urban gardens and coastal cliffs. So they like to come into our grounds at Wicor Primary as the variety of areas (woodland, pond, orchard, field, scrub) supports their food chain.
During our research on badgers, we found out that they do not hibernate in the sense that hedgehogs do. Like many other animals and birds, badgers eat as much as they can during the autumn, laying down a lot of fat under the skin and increasing their weight by up to 6%. This helps them to survive through the winter. They do not hibernate but spend the coldest weather sleeping in their setts, living mainly off their fat.
Badgers are omnivores ( meat and plant eaters): they like to eat frogs, slugs, beetles and wasp grubs with earthworms being their main food, this can be hard to source when the ground is often frozen. . In the autumn we have a lot of food in the grounds for the badgers as they will forage for windfall apples, blackberries and wild cherries among other things. Coming into the spring badgers also like to eat young rabbits and bluebell bulbs, and we have a lot of the latter.
Winter also plays a part in their breeding season with badgers mating between February and October but the fertilized egg does not start developing until December. This is called delayed implantation. Badgers usually have two to three cubs in a litter, and these are born mid-January to March which is about eight weeks after implantation. Badger cubs stay underground until they are 8 weeks old and at 12 weeks old they start the process of weaning.
At Wicor we have had badger activity on site for as long as the school has been built here which is over 50 years. We often see the trails they leave across the site to their setts in a neighbouring undeveloped plot of land, and if you follow the trails you would find three parts of a wire fence which they have pushed up to go between the school field and the field next door. There is also a hole which has been pushed under a fence into the orchard. There is an entrance to a sett on the field in a big mound of earth with evidence of scraping around the entrance which we think shows that they are going in and out. The field next door has a network of at least three setts and we are supporting the community battle to save this undeveloped piece of historic countryside. We even wrote a letter and went to the Fareham Borough Council at a hearing to appeal – after all we are the next generation and we want green fields not new houses. But back to the badgers…we regularly find tufts of black and white wiry hair caught on low lying branches and on the fence that divides the school from the field. We also have badger latrines that appear all over our orchard and we often put our feet in them accidentally while walking through the maze path in the orchard…but we find this really funny. We think it is really clever that the badgers dig out latrines and this shows how clean they are. We also found out how to tell the difference between male and female badgers: males can usually be distinguished from females by their broader, more domed heads, fuller cheeks and thicker necks. The females also have shorter broader ones.
As part of our seasonal learning we will be keeping an eye out to see if any bedding material is pulled out of their sett entrance to air, which badgers do in the winter.