The badger is widespread in Britain, including in the south-east. It is a common road casualty, and the subject of controversy among gardeners and farmers. It is often persecuted, despite being protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. Badger digging is not a big problem in this area at present, but has been recorded.
These large, nocturnal, omnivorous mammal sleeps underground in extended family groups in a group of holes called a set (or sett). During March and April of 2010, we carried out a survey of badger sets in Plumpton parish and part of East Chiltington. In all, we completed five survey sessions and some other exploratory or follow-up visits.
The idea was to locate all the sets, record their position and, using a standard Badger Trust recording sheet, record a range of information about the size (number of active holes) of each set, its habitat and other features relating to its occupation.
We checked 25 potential sites, and scoured all the potential downland areas of Plumpton. We found 16 active sets, five abandoned sets, two sites where we could only find active latrines, and two sites where badgers had been reported but we could find only evidence of rabbits.
Since then we have followed up one or two further leads and have found latrines or other evidence in a couple of areas where the set itself may have been outside the study area. We also found one formerly abandoned set that has been re-occupied. We hope to complete the survey of East Chiltington.
Because of the sensitivities about badgers and their whereabouts, we haven’t published a detailed map. But we can report that the main concentration of badgers is at the south end of the parish associated with the chalk; there is another band of lesser concentration across the middle of the parish, and they are rarer at the north end of the parish. Some of the better-known sets were not as active as we expected or had been abandoned, but they have been replaced by significant sets that seem to be fairly recent. One site first recorded in 1973 was still going strong.
All the data will be retained by the group and copied to the SBRC and BTSB. We may repeat the survey after about 10 years to identify any changes.
Main photo c Hugh Clark