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Saturday 21 October 2017

Roadkill offers opportunity to examine badgers

By Jim Hurley - Nature Trail

The two front limbs of a fresh Badger roadkill.
The two front limbs of a fresh Badger roadkill.

The Badger is a nocturnal animal so it is generally out and about under cover of darkness only. Since most people are asleep in their beds at night the only evidence of the animal that we are likely to see during the daytime may be footprints left in wet mud, tufts of silver-tipped, dark hair snagged on a barbed wire fence or remains of an overnight roadkill unceremoniously abandoned on the wayside verge.

Footprints are seldom preserved perfectly but when they are they are certainly worthy of closer examination. Ideally, to preserve a good print, the Badger needs to be walking on level ground rather than trotting or galloping up or down a slope. The mud needs to be free of vegetation and to be soft but not sloppy. And, most of all, the print needs to be fresh.

A fresh Badger roadkill affords an opportunity to become familiar with the layout of the animal's foot. The image above shows the two front limbs of a freshly dead Badger lying on the road.

The sole of the left foot is facing us showing the claws, digits and pad. In human terms, these equate to the nails, fingers and palm of our left hand. As with our hand, the digit on the left - the thumb - is the shortest of the five.

Badgers dig a lot so their front limbs are powerful, the claws are long and sharp and the digits are muscular. The pad behind the digits is broader than long and is kidney-shaped.

Badger footprints are easily recognised as all five claws readily show, the print is wider than long and the pad is kidney-shaped. In both dog and fox prints, only four claws show, the print is more or less circular in outline and the pad is roughly triangular or diamond-shaped being as long as it is broad.

The beach is a good place to study footprints as many people exercise their dogs on the strand. A dog running on a flat beach with damp, firm sand near an ebbing tide leaves good pawprints making it is an easy exercise to relate the size and shape of the print to the size, shape, weight and behaviour of the animal that made it.

A dog that has been released from the confines of a car is bound to generate erratic sets of pawprints as it walks, runs, jumps and slips while enjoying its new-found freedom.

Wexford People

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