In the fall two winters ago, during one of my regular walks through the woods, I stumbled upon an animal den on a sloping area deep within the forest. I set up a trail camera there to identify the resident, and it turned out to be a European Badger (Meles Meles).
I started monitoring the badger’s life, but an unforeseen and unexplainable circumstance caused me to lose the trail camera and with it, the badger’s whereabouts. It took me some time to get a new trail cam, but as soon as I installed it back at the sett, it captured footage of the previously healthy and active badger in poor shape, scrawny and limping on its front paw.
Since it was the end of fall and the badger was entering winter malnourished, I realized that he wouldn’t survive the cold season without help. Badgers need to feed heavily before winter as they partially hibernate and rely on their fat reserves to make it to spring when food sources become available again.
And so I set out to save the badger’s life and spent the next few weeks bringing food to the entrance of the sett. I documented my journey in the Injured Badger Hole Adventures video series. Sadly, the badger never showed up again, and the food I kept bringing was only consumed by wood rats. Eventually, it became apparent that the badger didn’t make it, and I gave up hope of saving his life.
With the badger gone, the sett remained dormant throughout the winter. The forest debris, including fallen leaves, covered it, and there were no signs of any visits throughout the following year. The next winter arrived, and the sett still remained unused and abandoned. But come spring, I noticed that the leaf litter and debris in and around the sett had been cleared, suggesting that another animal had discovered it and was working to make it their own.
I put the trail camera back to capture footage of the new resident, and it showed that another badger, presumably a young one, had taken an interest in the sett and returned on multiple occasions to repurpose the place. The badger spent a lot of time giving the sett a new lease on life, suggesting that he was serious about making it his home. Although it’s true that animals can adapt and change quickly if the need arises, and a badger can just as easily move to a different spot to carve a new den. European Badgers are highly skilled and efficient diggers, which means that it would take little time for one to build a new home from scratch.
Despite these abilities, the young badger captured on my trail camera recognized the benefits of the location that the Injured Badger had discovered, as well as the already carved-out tunnels that he had left behind. It seems that the young badger appreciates the old badger’s work and sees the value in what’s still available there.
Thus, even though it seemed that the Injured Badger’s story had come to an end, the arrival of the young badger, and his interest in the old badger’s den, gives rise to the potential for a sequel. The sett sprite surely appreciates a new tenant as well.
I’m excited to see what happens with the sett and if the young badger sticks around. The circle of life in the forest continues. The badger is dead, but long live the badger!