October = Brocktober and brings us both National Badger Day (October 6th) and the Badger Trust's #GiveBadgersABrake campaign to increase driver awareness, emphasise the importance of checking on/reporting injured/dead badgers at the side of the road where possible (and where it's safe for you to do so) and to encourage council and highway authorities to focus on road kill hotspots and do something about them.
In the 3 months since this group was founded we've already had more than our fair share of Road Traffic Accident (RTA) notifications. We share them with Badger Trust to inform the #GBAB campaign and they share with us reports they receive on their website of RTA's in Hampshire so we know where to look for badgers and recover carcasses where we can for the APHA Southern Edge bTB project with which we're involved.
I want to share two stories that highlight the importance of RTA reporting and checking on road casualties where you're able to do so without putting yourself at risk. Neither are warm, cuddly stories and both are very important so please read on. Both these incidents left me incredibly sad.
Back in August we went out to rescue a young badger found by a chap near Farnham on his doorstep. You can see him in the photo here. The animal had evidently lost the use of its back legs and we took it to Hart Wildlife Rescue near Alton where it was found to have several broken vertebrae and a fractured pelvis. Sadly, the decision was taken to euthanise the animal. Shockingly, Hart Wildife Rescue had received a call at 1 am that morning about a badger seen dragging its way along the side of a road near Farnham. They'd gone out to look for the poor animal but been unable to find it in the dark. The badger we collected at 10 am that day was on the doorstep of the first house on a side-road leading from the location given to Hart Wildlife in the early hours. Whoever clipped that badger in their car didn't stop or report the collision. If that person had checked the animal they would have found it to still be alive. Whoever called it in at 1 am having seen it crawling home didn't stop to stay with the badger and make sure it was ok. Or make certain that Hart Wildlife Rescue got to it. That poor badger crawled as far as its shattered body would allow it and lay there in pain all night. It would have died a slower and more painful death if a good person hadn't reported it to us as soon as he found it.
Yesterday, a good friend of the Group rang me to report a dead badger on the A30 just outside Hook. When we went to check on the animal (and recover the carcass for bTB testing) it was nowhere to be found despite us knowing the exact location it had been seen. A search of the woodland nearby didn't turn up anything so had to be abandoned. The location is a main road at a point where it splits from a single to a dual carriageway with a 60 mph speed limit. It's not somewhere that offers anywhere easy to pull over or check on a badger lying inert by the side of the road, especially in heavy traffic. We hoped the carcass had already been recovered by the council. We feared that it may not have been dead and had crawled off somewhere. Today, we were contacted by one of the Countryside team at Hart District Council to say he'd seen a dead badger on a country road about half a mile from where the Hook badger went missing. Again, we were given the exact location and got to it promptly. Again, the badger was no longer there. No sign of it whatsoever. It's still out there somewhere.
We'll probably never know what happened to the Hook badger(s). It may be a coincidence that there were two RTA reports so close to each other on consecutive days and that both carcasses quickly vanished. Or it may be a story that doesn't bear thinking about.
So here's the sermon.
Please drive carefully at night and especially on country roads. Don't rely on being safe to drive at speed because there are no headlights coming in the opposite direction. Don't assume the roads are clear. Take particular care on bends and keep in mind that many mammals, especially badgers and deer, are active at night and live all around us.
Please, if you hit a badger, stop and check if it's dead or not. If it is, report it to Badger Trust via its website or to us via ours. There's a Badger Trust app coming very soon which will make reporting RTAs, badger crime or even badger sightings very easy for all of us using our smart phones. As soon as it's released and available, I'll let everyone know.
If you see a badger by the side of the road, please pull over and check to see if it's dead or injured. An injured badger can remain very still and easily give the appearance of being dead. Be careful in case it isn't as nobody wants you or the badger to come to any further harm. Please don't stop and check if it would be dangerous for you to do so (either because your car would become a danger to other road users or if the traffic or road layout is too dangerous). If the animal is dead, please let us or the Badger Trust know. It's really important, very valuable information.
If the badger is still alive please contact us immediately, or the Badger Trust or the nearest Wildlife Rescue Centre or the RSPCA. Don't try and help the animal yourself and definitely don't try and move or touch it. If you can, stay with it until help arrives to keep it as safe as you can.
Keep safe out there. Be vigilant. And be kind.