Another day, another fall of snow. I took a stroll up to the pasture field tonight. The snow is 20cm deep at the top of the hill, and yet there were still the tracks of a couple of badgers.
One of these tracks followed the same general route as one on Monday – out of the wood and down the hill, following the footpath across the pasture. The other came out of the wood from some distance away, went up to the first track and then doubled back on itself.
As I said, the general line of the first set of tracks follows the footpath up to the wood, and there are three separate badger latrine sites within half a mile along this path. This has got me thinking.
Badger latrines generally act as territory markers, and it is common for two neighboring badger clans to share a latrine on the border (see my post on mapping badger latrines for more details). Suppose the badger tracks mark the boundary between two territories, and that the two badgers were from neighbouring setts? This would explain why the tracks came from opposite directions, and why so many tracks on Monday all converged on this area. The badgers were walking along the boundary line – staking out their territories from both sides.
If this is true, it also explains why the latrine sites are on the same line, and why the badgers on Monday were taking such an interest in each others’ tracks – they were from different clans.
Such ‘border patrol’ activities are mentioned in the literature. For instance, I’ve finally read Hans Kruuk’s The Social Badger (and excellent it is, too), and he describes witnessing aggressive encounters between badgers on these shared paths between territories.
Lastly, on Monday I thought that the badger tracks showed that the territory of my badgers is much bigger than I thought it was. This may not be the case. If I was walking along a boundary between territories, I was looking at tracks from two different badger clans, one on either side of the border, rather than one big territory covering the whole area.
Curiouser and curiouser. This means that my tracking in the snow may have pinpointed the precise line between two badger clans. As a theory, this boundary idea fits all the facts. I wonder how I could prove it?