I’ve been asked this question quite a lot recently.
People say “I’ve looked at your blog, and there doesn’t seem to be any badger-related activity since late summer. There’s all sorts of stuff about tracking deer and seeing sparrowhawks and so on, but no badgers.
In a nutshell, Badger Watching Man, why are you not watching badgers?
Have they hibernated?”
The truth is that badgers do not hibernate, but badger watchers do.
Badgers remain active all year round, although a very hard frost may keep them underground if it stops them from digging out worms or other food. They’ll put on weight in autumn when food is plentiful to help them through the leaner times of winter, but they do not go to sleep in winter.
As I write this in November, the badgers will still be emerging each night and going about their usual foraging. You can check this by looking for tracks and for fresh dung at the latrine sites. The reason why I am not watching them is because they will be emerging from the sett at about 6.00 or 7.00pm, long after it has got dark. In the summer months this isn’t a problem as dusk falls after the badgers emerge, but now it is fully dark and there would be no chance of me seeing anything.
The only options for a badger watcher in winter is either to illuminate the sett with some sort of artificial light, or to use night vision goggles. I don’t have any night vision goggles (yet), and I’m very reluctant to start shining lights on the badgers. According to most people it does them no harm and doesn’t really disturb them, but I’d still rather not take the chance.
So, the badgers are still going strong but I’ve hung up my badger watching hat until the spring, when the days will grow longer and the new cubs will emerge. Rather than hibernate fully myself I’ve become engrossed in deer and tracks and all manner of wild things for the winter, but don’t worry, the badgers will return!