In early November, I set up a camouflage wildlife camera, kindly given to us by Tevi https://tevi.co.uk/camera-traps/, at ground level in some woodlands just outside the museum. Since then, I have been watching some of the night life around Porthcurno valley! The most frequent animal spotted on the night camera has been a badger, whose track happens to pass just past the frame. I noticed a pattern, which would fluctuate slightly, but for the most part the badger would spend three days straight foraging, passing by the camera a few times in the night. Then for a further two or three days, she would not be spotted at all.
I could only think to link this to the badgers’ typical winter behaviour. Instead of hibernating, these mustelids go into a state of torpor between November and February. A torpor is a state of limited activity in which they sleep for large periods of time but do wake to occasionally forage. Their body temperature reduces so that their fat reserves are prolonged through the phase of limited food consumption.
After establishing the badger’s pattern of behaviour, I noticed that often it tended to be facing away from the camera and into the woodlands when it triggered the motion sensor, so most of the shots I was getting were from it walking away. Eventually after a couple of weeks of this, I decided to explore the tracks that the badger had trampled into the leaf debris, and set up the camera facing towards these tracks, meaning I should be able to see its face a bit more. Since then, I have had some far more detailed and close-up videos of the badger running across the frame.
Keen sense of smell
Interestingly, the badgers’ keen sense of smell is its most important sense to them for navigating and foraging in the night-time. Despite being nocturnal creatures, their eyesight is actually very poor. I could observe as I watched the badger exploring in the video clips, how much it was reliant on its sense of smell. It would almost constantly have its nose down when walking along the path. Its sense of smell was so good in fact that it managed to find the camouflaged camera and gave it a good sniff before walking away again!
When this badger is out and about its likely hunting for its winter food. Normally, a badger can eat up to 200 worms in just one night. But, since there are less worms in winter, they must resort to other forms of food. This can be slugs, snails, berries, nuts and opportunistically, badgers are also known to hunt hedgehogs.
Badgers and hedgehogs – an asymmetric predatory relationship
Badgers and hedgehogs have an ‘asymmetric intraguild predatory relationship’ the ‘asymmetrical’ aspect means that only one species preys upon the other- in this case the badger is the predator. ‘Intraguild predation’ is the act of preying on and consuming competition from a different species. As the hedgehog is in competition for the same insect food as the badger, it works in the badger’s favour to hunt and eat the hedgehog. However, badgers have been falsely accused of creating the sharp decline in hedgehog populations. It is important to realise here that the badger only hunts a very small population of the hedgehogs, and very rarely. The sharp decline in hedgehogs is due to a fragmentation of habitat due to construction, roads, gardens, and fences, which has also greatly impacted the badger population across the UK.
I am planning on watching the night life more and keeping the camera rolling, hopefully getting more and more interesting videos, and an in-depth perspective on the rich ecosystem in Porthcurno Valley.
Maeve Cushla, Young Curator, PK Porthcurno