Every wildlife assistant at Stapeley Grange must be capable of caring for any wildlife species that arrives at the centre, however its staff also have specialist knowledge of certain species. Jenny Derbyshire plays a leading role in rehabilitating badger cubs and is the ‘go-to person’ for all things badgers. Here she talks about her role, which has its challenges – but is always worthwhile.
At Stapeley Grange, I have what I believe to be the amazing role of rehabilitating badger cubs. Every year has its challenges, but no year is ever the same, and 2017 was certainly no exception to the rule.
On the 24 February I received my first call of an orphaned badger cub in Mostyn Clwyd. It was above ground, weighed only 96g, practically bald and with its eyes still closed.
After multiple conversations with the land owner and local badger group, we decided the cub had to come into the hospital. As this cub was so young, it required around-the-clock care including feeds throughout the night. Cuan Wildlife Rescue, in Shropshire, were more than happy to take the cub in and to give the little cub regular feeds day and night.
Six weeks later, our second cub of the year arrived from Wrexham Clwyd. As it was later in the season, the cub was far more developed; their eyes were open and they were sporting the typical black and white badger stripes.
The original cub was coming on in leaps and bounds, and after both were tested and cleared for tuberculosis (TB), they were mixed together at Cuan House.
Badgers must be like buses, because the day after, two siblings arrived at our centre after their sett had collapsed. Both weighed close to 2.5kg each and were very feisty and full of attitude, which is just the way we like them!
We housed the pair together in our outdoor badger shed, which is situated furthest away from the hospital to avoid any noise or disturbance. During the period the cubs are inside, we try to keep contact to a minimum. We lock them in covered boxes whilst feeding and cleaning so they don’t get use to human contact.
The cubs were to stay at the centre until release. They too were tested for TB, ready to be mixed with any new arrivals.
By late April we were contacted by RSPCA Newbrook in Birmingham, as they had now received a badger cub which had been found in a field, after being repeatedly kicked by a horse. After an initial examination by our vet, we determined that luckily the cub hadn’t sustained any serious injuries and was given pain relief for a few days. This cub was then TB tested and mixed with the two siblings, ready to be introduced to our outdoor paddock.
Our cubs were then let out into our outdoor underwired paddock. This gives the cubs chance to exhibit natural behaviours such as digging a sett, snuffling for earthworms and foraging for fruits and seeds.
After months of feeding and rehab, the cubs are TB tested for the final time, before being moved in to their “soft release” pen, where they were supplementary fed for eight weeks before being released into the wild. We continue to supplementary feed, but more sporadically, to encourage the cubs to forage naturally for their own food.
However, not all cubs admitted stay in rehab. Our mission here at Stapeley Grange is to try to give any animal the best chance of surviving in the wild. For some animals, that is to try to return them to their natal group, even as juveniles.
Every badger cub that is admitted to the hospital, we try our utmost to return back to its natal sett. There are always multiple factors to consider and gaining a landowner’s permission can sometimes be difficult. However, there are some positive scenarios too. Last year we managed to return two badger cubs to their natal setts, after many late nights sat in the dark waiting for badgers to emerge. It’s not always easy but the outcome is definitely worth it!
The RSPCA is a charity and relies on public donations to exist. It costs the centre £50,000 to feed the 6,500 animals which are admitted every year. The food bill for seals alone costs £500 a week. Anyone who would like to support the vital work of Stapeley Grange can now donate online at www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/rspcahq/stapeleygrange.