My name is Alexandra Evans and I have recently started working with Shropshire Wildlife Trust as the new trainee badger officer! I have had an interest in wildlife from a young age growing up in a veterinary household and this led me to pursue a degree in Zoology at The University of Derby. During my degree, I decided to explore my passion for mammals and conservation further by conducting a dissertation project focusing on the welfare of otters in captivity at my local zoo. Otters, like badgers, are social creatures and they are both part of the same family Mustelidae (carnivorous mammals!). Therefore, when I found out about the role with Shropshire Wildlife Trust, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to learn more in depth about this native species!
Starting work as a Badger Officer - Alex Evans
My primary role working with the Trust involves the surveying and monitoring of some of the larger reserves to check for illegal culling activity, signs of badger activity, mapping setts, runs, latrines and anything else of interest. I also plan to install camera traps at some of the larger reserves such as Pontesford/Earls Hill over the summer while the foliage is dense and badger activity is difficult to spot.
During my first few weeks, I have been lucky enough to help out with pre-baiting at another reserve as part of the vaccination programme. My first day there involved a walk around the perimeter to inspect the boundary and spot for runs through the grass and fencing, as well as getting to know some of the team. It is a truly beautiful reserve, well worth the drive and the hayfever!
On my next visit to the reserve, we installed 10 cages along the perimeter. Cages are set out around 2 weeks prior to vaccination and left open in order for the badgers to get comfortable moving in and out of them. We dug a shallow grave for the cage to sit into then once in position the loose soil was filled back in covering the floor of the cage. Wire is used to secure the door, preventing it from closing.
Lastly, ‘bait points’ were established at the entrance of each cage into which we placed a good amount of peanuts. These were then covered over with earth and a cement block was placed on top to minimise interference with other species. This was quite time-consuming, strenuous work and involved some serious battling with nettles and blackthorn (!) but was very rewarding when completed. I visited the reserve again soon after to move the bait to the back into the cage. Moving the bait progressively farther back into the cage helps to maximise the number of captures and more captures means more vaccinated badgers!
I am hopeful that this opportunity will further equip me with new skills, knowledge, and confidence to enable me to pursue a rewarding career in conservation – wherever in the world that may be! My aim during my time with the Trust is to learn more about tracking/mapping and utilising camera traps to help create strategies for conservation to implement in our wild spaces. I am excited to make connections with wonderfully kind and likeminded people, as I already have.
It is my hope to spread more awareness about the badger vaccination programme through social media and work towards evolving the perception surrounding badgers and the transmission of bTB.
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