Out this morning at 6.15am, just as the first birds were starting to call. The Snow was falling very gently and very wetly, like it had been doing for most of the night. There was not such a lot of snow on the ground; just enough to cover the previous soggy layer. I walked towards the sit~spot as usual, which is about a five minutes walk from my house, following the tracks of my neighbour and his dog, who I know had walked up that way half an hour before me. Following, following; enjoying seeing evidence of the dog running around chasing snowballs in that crazy way only dogs can do, trying to work out my neighbour’s mood from his prints, when all of a sudden another track appeared alongside them. I knew instantly it was something not-dog.
What a treat! It was a badger’s tracks running up the same path as I was walking and he must have passed no more than a couple of hours before, considering that the snow was filling the tracks at a rapid pace. It’s funny how, once you have been following and closely observing tracks for a while, you instantly know when something is different from the norm and how distinctive badger tracks can be. I’m chuffed because I have actually been searching for badger since it snowed and these were absolutely gorgeous prints, the first ones I have seen this winter.
You can tell the difference between badger and dog quite easily from the photo above; to the left is the badger track and to the upper right is one dog print. The dog’s is very defined, like a four-leaf clover almost; neatly placed with the two central claws being the most obvious, sitting right at the top of the print (fox’s print are more delicate, narrower and have a clear division between the top two pads and the bottom three). The badger’s tracks are more chaotic; it places its back paws on top and slightly forward of its front paws when walking and directly on top of each other when it trots, so the prints seem large and smudged. One thing that is unmistakable though, it has very long claws, which can stick out 2cms from the print and are often very deep. When the animal starts loping, you will find single prints too. This badger was doing a trot mixed with a gentle canter up the path on his nightly foray into the woods. Note below that another dog print has snuck into the shot, on the top right alongside the badger’s.
These were the most beautiful badger tracks I have ever seen. I was so excited about them that I had to rush back home and grab my SLR camera and start at the beginning again. You can see below that the snow had turned to rain during the early hours and under the trees it had left pockmarks in the snow. The tracks always remind me of a small bear’s.
I kept following the tracks for nearly a mile along the ski pistes. It used the main thoroughfare, which is also used by people, dogs, foxes, deer and hares but the difference was that instead of just walking in a straight line, it made an arc towards every bare patch of soil underneath the trunks of trees by the side of the piste. It was obviously digging around for roots and whatever grubs and other insects had already started to emerge in the warmer weather, shown by lots of disturbance in the earth. The tracks followed a definite pattern; clean paws walking towards a tree, dirty paws walking out the other side, away from the tree and on to the next one. The trail was easy to follow and I thought that I may find some hair snagged on a low branch where the badger had passed under but unfortunately, there was nothing.
Two hours later, I realised that I had completely missed my sit~spot and walked straight on past, so absorbed was I in following the tracks of the badger. But not to worry, that can wait for another time.