Monday, March 31, 2014

Clan Take Over: New boar on the block

I've just seen a new boar at the badger sett I visit. He seems to have taken over the clan. I saw him for the first time last week as I was sitting quietly watching another badger that I call Humbug. I have habituated Humbug to my presence and she'll even take biscuits from my hand.

As Humbug calmly dug for worms at my feet, I heard a sound behind me. I looked up from where I was sitting to see this new boar standing tall at the top of a steep bank behind me in a threatening manner.

And I’m sure it was delibrate! As he stood tall on the bank, he sniffed at the air and then abruptly cocked his leg. He then snorted loudly before sauntering slowly and meaningfully back to the sett. I think I was being put in my place!

This new boar appears to have brought three or four females with him and a number of the previous sows, and the previous boar, have gone. Last time I was lucky enough to stroke Humbug I noticed she had a lot of scars on her front, and I suspected that she might have been fighting. Now I’m sure of it.

This boar is not nearly as impressive looking as last year's boar. I've dug out my photographs of the boars from previous years to show you.

This boar reigned from 2012-2014
Last year’s boar was very handsome. He was a huge, powerful badger and I had hoped his reign would last a bit longer. He took over during the summer of 2012 in a very aggressive campaign during which I am fairly sure he killed the clan cubs.

He made up for this initial reign of terror the following year by being very playful with his own cubs. It was a great to watch him in this paternal role.

This boar (above) reigned from 2011-2012. This boar (below) reigned in 2009-2011.

This (below) was one of the male cubs from 2009, who I nicknamed 'Dyson'. This was one of the last times I saw him when he was a nine month old boar looking fit and well ready for winter.
This type of unrest amongst the clan seems to happen nearly every year here and in fact none of the 14 original badgers I watched back in 2009, when I first began to keep a nightly watch on this sett, remain. Whenever a new boar appears the old one is either ousted, taking some of the sows with him, or killed.

This turmoil is very unsettling for all concerned. The tension at the sett is tangible and the badgers become frightened of their own shadows. It means that many of the badgers I have spent so long habituating to my presence have gone and these new badgers are more nervous of me.

Of course it also affects the studies I make for my paintings! Last year I knew each individual and had sketches and photographs of them all and now of course I will have to start the lengthy process all over again.
This week I've been watching the new boar scent-marking and strutting about. He kept rubbing his feet in his own urine and parading up and down paths that lead to and from the sett and then I spotted him mating a sow and realised he had been warning off any competitors.

Badgers can mate all year round and implantation is delayed so that cubs are usually born in February and don’t come out until spring. Although with this new takeover I wonder if the mating has occured now because the new boar has killed the cubs underground. I will be keeping an anxious watch over the next few weeks to see if any cubs appear. I really hope they are okay.

Thankfully Humbug is still at the sett, although even she is cautious. I’ve become so fond of her I would be very sad if she gets ousted too.


  1. Those are fascinating observations of badger behavior. Great photos and a great portrait. Good job.

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