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Rescuing the badger body after the storm


I ended last week's post by worrying about the big storm we had in the UK (100mph near us !) and whether it had damaged the wood where my trail camera was. That wood is on top of a great moor, and you can see for about 20 miles in three of the four directions, so it was quite exposed. It turned out that wood was hardly damaged at all, but another wood was damaged that was important to me !

I call that wood "The Mortuary Wood", and it is where I left the badger and the buzzard bodies to decompose.  It is for away enough away from houses so people cannot smell the decomposition smell  but is close enough to the road so it's easy to bring the bodies in and keep checking on them. I went up on Saturday morning to check on the bodies and I was shocked by what I found !

The wood is quite sheltered and much lower down than the pine marten wood, but a huge strip of pine trees has been blown down, each one pulling up the roots around them vertically. This was the base of just one of the trees !

I had wrapped the badger (in mesh) and buzzard (in tights) to keep the bones together, and hidden them under a similar set of roots. That tree had fallen down 45 degrees, so under the roots was like a kind of cave. This was how it used to look:

But after the storm it had fallen down all the way, pulling up the roots, so the bodies were exposed and I could see them from a distance away. 

This was bad, because gamekeepers or other people might find them and throw them away, or forestry workers might come in to clear the trees and throw them away too. The only thing to do was to move the bodies, even though I wasn't sure they were ready yet !

The buzzard was easy. That was wrapped in tights, so it could just be picked up and moved. I haven't looked at it yet so I don't know how decomposed it is yet. But the badger was more difficult because I knew it was in the middle of decomposition so it couldn't just be put in the car in case body fluids leaked or parts fell out.

I left the badger on the 16th April with it swapped in mesh and when I checked in August it still wasn't properly decomposed. When I went back on the 7th December it had been left 236 days, much longer than I had left other bodies, but it wasn't properly rotted down yet. Parts were clear bone, but the intestines looked like badger soup ! It smelt really bad. This is it before and after:

It was really gross and I had to poke around it to look for bones and we got almost all of them ! I love collecting bones, but I don't like the stage in-between much. Every single bit had to be sifted through by hand to find bones. I wore plastic gloves and used my Swiss Army knife, then put each section in a different bag.

The paws were worst. They had not rotted properly so the phlanges were all joined, and the ankle or wrist joints were still intact.

This was the front paw, the left one I think. The lower arm bones (the radius and ulnas) were still connected at the wrist to the paw:
Very gross image. Click and hold down to see the full picture or click here to see in a new window.

The one bone I didn't find was a baculum (penis bone), so I'm pretty sure it was a female.

How did it die ?

This is as we found it in April by the side of the road leading out of my village. There were no obvious injuries but the only signs of injury was the side of its head and it had blood around its mouth.

When we first saw it we thought it was definitely road kill because it was found right beside a road. Then dad started to worry that maybe it had been shot and dumped, even thought there had been no signs, because there was very little evidence of other badger activity in the area. 

Very gross image. Click and hold down to see the full picture or click here to see in a new window.

When we were looking around the body we could see no signs of damage but after examined it and lifted up some skin on the side of the skull I found it was split down the middle ! This is very odd because badgers are one of the strongest animal so it must have taken a lot of force to break the skull like this. I'm now certain it got hit by a car on the head. None of the other bones were fractured.

Very gross image. Click and hold down to see the full picture or click here to see in a new window.

Moving it like this was a horrible job, but it was the best thing to do once the site had been exposed. Next week I will post about how I cleaned up the bones !

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tom said...

very cool have you ever considerd getting the skin taxidermied

Jake said...

No, I just left the skin on. The patches that were left were rotten.

Sylvía Oddný said...

I can say with some pride that I happened to be eating my lunch while eating this and didn't feel nauseated at all.

Jake said...

Ha ! Well done !

sedruff said...

Jake, you are so awesome!
It is really considerate of you to do the "Scary Image" warnings and stuff!

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