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A lucky week for me but an unlucky one for a badger


This week has all been about good luck and bad luck. The good luck for me on Monday was I finally got my leg cast off ! But the bad news is they put another one on so it'll be on for another two weeks. The other bad news is there was a badger killed by a car just outside my village - but this was good news for me because it's the first badger I've found, and I didn't even know there were badgers living there !

I've never seen a badger in the wild. They are quiet and secretive and only come out at night, and their setts are usually well hidden, so often the only time people see them is as roadkill. I've been living in the village all my life and I never knew they were living nearby. It was as Dad was driving me and my brothers to the hospital on Monday to get my cast looked at that we noticed something by the side of the road.
At the time Dad thought it was a dog, but we didn't have time to stop then, but when we came back we could see it was a badger ! It was further down the bank than when we first saw it so it must have rolled.

It had leaves over its face but you could see the black and white face stripes so I knew it was a badger.

The leaves had stuck because there was blood on the left hand side of its face. 

We had brought a box to take it away while I decided what to do with it. We wore rubber gloves too. The body was very fresh with no other injury signs apart from the blood at the mouth which was good. It must have lay on the left side of its face at first, then been rolled over later because the blood was on its left side and blood doesn't flow uphill. Police also use this to tell if a body has been moved.

It fitted well into the box (the same one that I used for Pharoah the fox) and it looked beautiful and well apart from the blood. I'm not sure if it was an adult or not.

Badgers have very big and very sharp claws, and muscular pads and legs. They are very strong, and while they are peaceful and shy, they can do a lot of damage to other animals that attack them, especially dogs.

Their skull is almost unique because it it extremely strong and the bottom jaw is permanently attached to the skull with a hinge that stops it dislocating, like this one from the Biscuit Tin Of Bones:

Even though badgers are the same family as otters (mustelids) and they have their own special law to protect them, you don't need a licence to have their bones, unlike my otter. My plan was to put it in a wire mesh and let it decompose (like I did with Vulpy the fox) but instead of burying it I planned to leave it above ground. The mesh is to keep the bones together, because foxes often pull bodies apart and leave limbs a long distance apart. Here what I designed:

It's two sheets of mesh (£2.99 each from Wickes) hinged with cable ties and with a waterproof sign on:

The sign was in case a gamekeeper found it and thought it looked like the badger had been trapped. Badgers are so valuable to the countryside that they have their own group of laws which protects them. (But that doesn't stop this stupid UK government starting a badger cull when there is no scientific evidence that a cull will work !)

My garden is too small to let a body decompose because the neighbours wouldn't like it, and I couldn't go out because of my leg, so dad had to find a safe place to leave it. First he put the badger on the mesh:

Then he folded the mesh over and used cable ties round the edge to keep out foxes and birds, but let in flies (which lay eggs which turn into maggots) and beetles and ants.

My editor Jo had a good idea too, but she only told me after we'd hidden it. She suggested wrappping the paws in soft nylon netting to keep all the tiny bones together. That would be a good idea for the head and the teeth too.

This was the spot Dad found to hide it. It is underneath a blown over pine tree, and is close to a road so it's easy to check, but no-one ever goes there apart from a gamekeeper. When the tree blew over it left the roots exposed and the tree was at 45 degrees so it formed a kind of cave. At the edges were well hidden covered holes:

He pushed it into the side, and fastened it to a root with cable ties so it couldn't be dragged away.

Then he covered up the rest with sticks and foliage. Flies would still be able to get in, but it isn't obvious what is there.

Because it's coming into summer, I think it will take at least two and maybe three months to rot down to bones. Vulpy took seven months, but that was buried, and over the winter. So if no-one else finds it, and it rots down nicely, my plan it to rearticulate it over the summer, just like how I did Vulpy !

PS. I wrote this week because I asked people on the Jakes Bones Facebook page which of two stories they wanted ! If you "like" that page, you'll see some extra stuff during the week.

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Marie said...

I put a sign like that on a wood pigeon I had found. Someone stole the sign but left the skeleton! :)

Jack N said...

I saw loads of badgers in our garden because we live right next to a huge badger sett.They really are fantastic animals!

Jake said...

Where do you think I got the sign from ? :-)

Jake said...

You are so lucky !

Psydrache said...

That thing with the mesh looks like a very good idea! I worked on a "Kadaver-Käfig" (cadaver cage) for smaller animals too but I dind't prove it yet. I hope you will have a perfect badger sceleton soon.

Last autumn we had badgers in the backjard at night. There they were eating our hazel-nuts. The badgers were so cute!

Jake said...

My friend Ben Garrod from bensbones.co.uk says that roadkill badgers tend to have lots of fractured bones even if there is no damage on the outside because their muscles are so solid. I'll see in two months !

Sea Wolf said...

Hi Jake. A European badger is very special and you are lucky to have found it. It is too late now but perhaps if you find another, or another fox that you want to clean this way, consider skinning it. This way, you will not have the fur all mixed in with your bones and they should be easier to sort and locate. Someday, you might also want to try maceration in water with these as even the smallest bones are easy to find and never any chance of an animal stealing the project. You can also put the different legs each in a separate container and this helps to keep the bones from getting scrambled.

Magpiepog said...

It's beautiful.
Would something like old tights work to keep all the little bones together? or net bags that you get on oranges maybe

Sylvía Oddný said...

Badgers really are lovely animals, and I wish to see one up close some day. Clever of you to use a wire mesh - I wish I had thought of that for the seagull I found last week (wrote about it on my blog and everything). Since he was mostly whole, I ended up burying him, and will probably have to wait for some time. Then again, finding a place where he would be left alone would have been tricky. I really should have put it in in some sort of a mesh or a bag, though, so it will be easier to find all the little bones once I dig it back up.
P.s. Glad to hear that your cast is off!

Jake said...

Nah, I'm fine. Too gross for me.

Jake said...

I have a bird to do and I think I will try tights on that.

Jake said...

Thanks ! I'd love to see ones in the wild too. And my cast is still on for another week :-(

Christine Sutcliffe said...

I've never seen a live badger before, even in captivity - I had no idea about the lower jaws being permanently affixed to the skull either!
You learn something new everyday!

Jake said...

It's interesting, it's so they can bite hard without dislocating the jaw.

Raccoon Skull Girl :3 said...

The badger is so gorgeous! Did you check it's gender? It's obviously much easier to figure out gender before it decomposes. XD I wish I could find a badger, but I don't think many live in Ontario, Canada. XD So when do you think it will be ready to start processing more? I would love to see how the internal injuries affected it.

Also, on an unrelated note, are there "fur-bearing animal" laws where you live? In Canada tons of animals are fur-bearing (which is a stupid description), so they have certain hunting seasons and laws about products from them, which (I think) includes bones. Raccoons, foxes, etc. are all considered fur-bearing, so it may limit the number of species I can collect. :/ I was just wondering if you ever had to deal with things like that. XD

Jake said...

I think it will be at least another month. I didn't check the gender before, but I will see if there is a baculum. There are no 'fur' rules here but some furry animals (like badgers and otters) are protected.

Raccoon Skull Girl :3 said...

Cool! I can't wait to read about it. :D
And I just went back and checked the actual fur laws, and there is no mention of bones! :D Just pelts you have to have a license for off-season. And I'm guessing I won't be so happy about that when I find a fresh raccoon or fox that still has a gorgeous pelt. But oh, well. For now I can be excited that I can still collect bones! :D :D :D

And if you finish re-articulating him/her over the summer early, you should start re-articulating your grey squirrel and hedgehog next, since they're smaller. XD Good luck with processing the badger!

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