Badger predation at GWSDF Auchnerran

By Dave Parish, Head of Scottish Lowland Research 

Breeding waders have always done very well at Auchnerran: the farm supports large populations – of national significance in some cases – and the birds usually produce more than enough young than are needed to maintain the local population.

The site benefits from sympathetic habitat management and the control of the number of some predators like corvids and foxes, courtesy of the neighbouring gamekeeping team. Over the last few years we have recorded some predation of eggs, but usually only around 11% of clutches monitored via trail cameras succumb to predators.

2021 CT23 N9 Badger (1)

The last few days has seen a worrying development at Auchnerran. We have been monitoring badger numbers on the farm over the years and noticed a steady increase in their abundance and have recorded the occasional raid on a wader nest. But over the last week or so we have lost approx. two-thirds of our early lapwing nests (around 20) to badger predation – some of which we have been able to capture on camera (the remainder we can usually infer from the remains at the nest site).

2021 CT23 N9 Badger #2 (1)

That badgers are the principal culprit is further supported by the fact that the areas where nests have survived are all completely rabbit-netted, like our game-cover plots, so access for large ground predators is not so straightforward. That said, Brock has been trying hard: rolling large stones away from the netting along the bottom of gates!

Such a large impact in such a short space of time is worrying and intriguing. We will continue to monitor the situation as best we can, moving our small stock of cameras from nest to nest as events unfold, to try and capture as much information on what is happening as possible. Will the lapwing attempt to lay second clutches and if so, will the badgers keep hunting them? Hopefully, this won’t extend to our more vulnerable population of curlew…

Please donate today and help us undertake leading research, challenge misinformation and promote what works


Hedgehogs in Scotland

at 10:17 on 06/07/2021 by Richard Everard

It is interesting to note that the last live Hedgehog that I saw was in the far north of Scotland where there are, apparently, no badgers although I was told that they are beginning to be seen.


at 15:03 on 22/04/2021 by Jeremy Scott-Bolton

I live in Somerset in the area where the first badger TB control took place. Had not seen a hedgehog for years now they are back!! You do not need to be a scientist to work out why!! I wished Packham and his cronies could read these comments!!

Hedgehog s

at 19:13 on 21/04/2021 by Adrian Handley

I live on an island in southern Hampshire 4 * 5 miles . We have no Badgers and a very healthy population of hedgehogs. I have thought that it would make a great case in any surveys on Badger predation


at 19:02 on 21/04/2021 by Benedict Hoskyns-Abrahall

I have been campaigning for years for those in positions of influence to realize that Badgers are the main vermin responsible for the loss of ground-nesting Birds , Bumble Bees and Hedgehogs. For Heaven’s Sake wake up and do something. I love Badgers but we must control their numbers. We control Foxes: what is the difference? BHA

Badger Predation

at 16:21 on 21/04/2021 by Ronald Scarce

I had a letter published in the shooting gazette in 2019 we suffer with the same thing in Suffolk where I live badgers are also killing hedgehogs at an alarming speed if not controlled will wipe out our local population altogether. I am a pest controler and I use camera's and shoot at night with thermal and infa red scopes and have seen it first hand.

Badger Predation

at 16:21 on 21/04/2021 by Ronald Scarce

I had a letter published in the shooting gazette in 2019 we suffer with the same thing in Suffolk where I live badgers are also killing hedgehogs at an alarming speed if not controlled will wipe out our local population altogether. I am a pest controler and I use camera's and shoot at night with thermal and infa red scopes and have seen it first hand.

predation by badgers

at 8:19 on 21/04/2021 by mark yorke

I need not add more to what has already been written, and that has been "common knowledge" for years. Having lived in west wales (Gwynedd ) since 1976 i have seen a steady increase in badger numbers -- far in excess of foxes, and with their predation of ground nesting birds ( including woodcock, grey partridge - not in gwynedd - lapwing, curlew, and others on the moorland edge), + leverets and hedgehogs. My trail camera has only caught them killing some hens, wild guinea fowl nests ,and raiding food bins.. They are out of control and a significant threat to endgandered species and hence biodiversity, let alone valuable cattle and farm economics.National action is required. " conservation involves culling in some circumstances "

Badger predation of ground nesters.

at 20:36 on 20/04/2021 by Ted Williams

Long has the volume been growing from witnesses to this issue. Unfortunately ‘anecdote’ is disregarded. The RSPB would have you ignore camera film at minsmere of a badger swimming to nesting avocets, a flagship conservation species, on islands on their ‘reserve’ a few springs ago to prey on eggs. The badger is the only mammal, I believe ,to have a specific Act of Parliament directed to its protection . It may have been relevant then, but the later countryside legislation surely supersedes this outdated and nowadays unnecessary law. The history of government reluctance to change this, through fear of bad press, has cost agriculture (tb) untold millions, government huge sums, and many, rare and vulnerable ,species locally now extinct. There must be balance. For too long the voice of truth has been out-shouted by ignorant and deceitful sentimentalism, thus ignored by those with the power to act. Shame

badger predation

at 20:30 on 20/04/2021 by Les Parslow

The cull of badgers is not supported by everyone or its principle aim to stop bovine TB, however in one area of Dorset I know well there has been a significant increase in brown hares and hedgehogs have been seen in the valley that were absent for many years previously, since the cull. Chris Packham summed it up when he showed pictures taken from a drone of badger tracks in the snow. They had covered every square meter during the night. What chance has any ground nesting bird or mammal got? More research is required and a balanced decision taken. Do we want curlew, lapwing, hedgehogs and hares or do we want over populations of badgers which will eventually run out of things to eat.

Badger Predation

at 20:22 on 20/04/2021 by Brian Elderfield

I have known for a long time that brock is efficient at take eggs, check and sitting hen pheasants on our shoot. Only wild chicks raised in the protection of the pen have any chance of survival. As Merlin are endagered and ground nesting there is no surprise that badger numbers are growing as Merlin numbers have declined. The badger is our equvelant of the wolverine, no naturals. They should be treated as the menace pest that they are.

badger predation

at 19:18 on 20/04/2021 by Lindsay Waddell

It's sad to read the number of replies all saying more or less the same thing and I can only add that during my working life I saw very good densities of breeding lapwing reduced to a stump of what they were by badgers. the evidence was there at the nests in most cases, tell tale footprints and the residue of pulped eggs. We can shout all we want to but in this Disney led culture we llive in I fear we are fighting a losing battle as polititians are not interested in wildlife unless it gets them either elected or re-elected. Bend to the political wind is the name of the game.


at 18:34 on 20/04/2021 by scott gartshore

No breeding woodcock ,hedgehogs turned inside out...sett expanded till you couldnt walk the woods with a gun because of badger huggers, day or night.Badger Act was simplistically draughted, and not at all practical!......Nightmare when over populated.

Badgers > Hedgehogs gone

at 17:18 on 20/04/2021 by HPT

Up until 12 months ago my Labradors would regularly bring me hedgehogs in the evenings resulting in a release process maybe not practiced at fields trials. Over the last year we have seen increased evidence of badgers and none of hedgehogs except a skinned body.

Badger predation

at 16:47 on 20/04/2021 by Rowena Davies

Likewise in West Wales, large setts and expansion into hedgerows with consequent damage to hedges and fencing. Foxes and raptors +++. Last recorded curlew and lapwing 2009 and, this year we are anxiously waiting for a sighting of hare..... Disposal of fallen stock regulations have removed a source of food which in the past may have given some relief to ground nesting birds and small mammals.

Badger predation

at 16:18 on 20/04/2021 by David Heywood

Springwatch had similar footage on their cameras from RSPB Minsmere a few years back (The Badger cull support our farmers have recently resurrected it on their FB page). Show your footage C. Packham, Wild Justice, RSPB and George Eaustace.

Badger predation on nests

at 15:53 on 20/04/2021 by David R Manning

So disappointing this happens but how t is to see a reasonable and acknowledged organisation like GWCT put tis into print. Well done. Hope you sent it and the photos in large format to C Packham.

Badger Predation at GWSDF Auchnerran

at 14:40 on 20/04/2021 by Lee Mabbutt

Whilst I have no definitive numbers to hand my recent experiences with fox and poacher patrolling indicates a rise in badger numbers even in the cull area which I operate. bTB cases are increasing, the cull parameters are flawed and nobody in Govt wants to grasp this particular nettle. Can I suggest we have a much more strident cull policy that clears and keeps numbers down in cull and edge areas and if desired relocate bTB badgers from Auchnerran back into the Midlands. Sick badgers out - healthy badgers in. Where a landowner can prove predation of red-listed species an individual licence should be given to remove the specific individual sett causing the issue. Badgers eating habits are habitual, once they are on to a particular food source they wont stop until its all gone. We need healthy badgers in manageable numbers and its not currently the case. Good luck!

Badger predation at Auchnerran

at 14:34 on 20/04/2021 by Chris Swift

Being brought up in the 1970's as a fan of Phil Drabble and his pet badgers, I am afraid I have now changed my position, in favour of sensible badger control. In the early 80's on our farm ten miles west of Inverness, badgers were odd visitors, and lapwings, oystercatchers and curlews all bred successfully. I estimated we had three roding pairs of woodcock in May, but these all gradually decreased and for the last ten years none of them has successfully bred here. Meanwhile the badger population has dramatically increased expanding north and west across the Highlands.

Badgers and all ground and water nesting birds

at 13:49 on 20/04/2021 by Frank Langrish

The Badgers have wiped out all of our Lapwing and other ground nesting species many years ago. In the last two years they have learnt how to take the Swans eggs from their nests just before they hatch. We used to have up to 20 Cygnets every year but two years ago we only had one and last year none from 6 nests. The Badgers have taken all the Mallard eggs from the ditch banks as well. We used to have one Sett on 400 acres but now there are over ten.

Badgers and ground nesting birds

at 13:04 on 20/04/2021 by John Watt

You may like to read the article in latest Bird Study magazine, 2020; vol67, p279-291; lead author Kettel,E; "A comparison of breeding bird populations inside and outside of European Badger control areas." This was a 5 + 5 year study which didn't have definitive findings. There are confounding issues such that for instance where badgers culled, other predators can step in.

Prevention of badger predation - one solution.

at 12:41 on 20/04/2021 by Philip Merricks

I guess that quite enough has been written in the many comments above about the habits of badgers as opportunist, generalist feeders and predators. The question is how to prevent it On our Elmley estate which also a NNR we tried electric fencing with variable success to improve the chick productivity of our breeding waders The best solution we found on our lowland wet grassland marshes was to erect tornado fencing in the ditches. No animal (especially foxes) can jump out of water and doing this saved the hassle of endlessly trying to maintain a decent current in the electric fencing. A spin off from this fence successfully keeping out badgers was than our hedgehog numbers exploded. To the extent that on our wet, open windswept marshes, with not a bush or hedge for miles, we now live trap and move elsewhere getting on for a hundred hedgehogs a year to protect the nests of lapwing, redshank, avocet etc. Under licence of course. If you are on marshes, or level ground, a wire mesh (eg tornado) fence in water is a good solution

Badger predation

at 12:39 on 20/04/2021 by Mary Fisher

I thought I was the only one in favour of badger culling! A daughter has had to have 'reactor' cows killed, badgers are protected. There are far too ,many, they cause far too much damage.

Badger numbers

at 12:30 on 20/04/2021 by LizBulled

Here in South West England we have had official badger culls for some years now basically to try to stem TB in cattle. Hedgehogs prior to this had become a very rare sight.Since the onset of culls it has been widely noticed how our hedgehog populations are increasing. Not unusual to see them at all now & back to the old thing of poor little squashed ones on the roads. None of us want to wipe out badgers but as now man is at the top of the food chain we are responsible for keeping populations of all wild species down to numbers where they don't become a pest in search of diminished food supplies.

Badger predation

at 12:20 on 20/04/2021 by Ralph Stimson

We flight ducks on a small shoot and if we fail to find any downed ducks in the dark, we only find the beaks and feathers the next morning

Dry springs

at 12:17 on 20/04/2021 by Anne Cotton

I am sure the dry springs we are having are causing an increase in badger predation on birds nests and hedgehogs and probably other things too. I observed the same thing last year when we had a similar long dry spell in April. I saw badgers out feeding in broad daylight in the middle of fields which I never normally see.

Badger impact on wildlife

at 11:51 on 20/04/2021 by Simom Kibble

Well i guess i was slow off the mark today but i can clearly see enough has been said on the matter. My point as always are those making policy at the same level of understanding as the "man in the field " so to speak. The simple fact is there needs action to reduce numbers not just for T.B control but for the greater good of the countryside And sooner than later .


at 11:47 on 20/04/2021 by Charles owen Grisedale

Snap - Badgers = no Lapwing . First hand experience .


at 11:28 on 20/04/2021 by Jeremy Culham

As everyone has said badgers eat everything on the ground and need culling now. My brother in law saw a badger eating the hind legs off a caste ewe, they were down to the bone and the ewe was still alive! Curlews and peewits will be under more pressure now as their chicks are the favourite food of the red kite, contrary to what the RSPB might say. Why were they introduced into SW Scotland when we had a strong population of both these lovely birds?

Badger Predation

at 10:56 on 20/04/2021 by Hugh Oliver-Bellasis

Well what a surprise - how can anyone show surprise? It is time for us all to admit we have failed to explain to the public that despite the Wind in the Willows and many children's' books immortalising Brock that wise old Brock. The badger is an unscrupulous omnivore, opportunistic, cruel; it has nearly wiped out hedgehogs; it has affected bumble bee populations significantly. UK is one of only a handful of countries in Europe that does not control Badgers outside the breeding season. GWCT has been over cautious and has not assessed the effect of the culls across the country. Worse still, the effects of badgers were being observed at Loddington 5 years ago. Please can we get on with it before it is too late - it is now 23rd hour and 45 mins or 15 minutes to disaster.

Badger predation of ground nesting birds.

at 10:56 on 20/04/2021 by Robert Brown Smith

I used to help run a small shoot in Central Scotland several years ago and there were a few active badger setts on the shoot. over the years, numbers increased and satellite setts were started and became active. We used to have large numbers of woodcock nesting in the area, but over the years as badger numbers increased, the once common sight of a roding woodcock has become a rarity. Also, we had occasional problems with badgers breaking into poultry pens and killing poultry and pheasant poults but I noted that this problem usually coincided with a prolonged spell of dry weather when the clay ground was baked hard and worms were not readily available near the surface. Perhaps this is part of the reason for increased nest predation at Auchnerran

Badger predation

at 10:51 on 20/04/2021 by Harry Bott

Our badger population here at Benington has exploded. We used to have 3 setts when we were allowed to control them, but now we have setts all around the farm and I estimate that we have several hundred badgers on our 640 ha farm. One evening when lamping foxes, our keeper counted 20 badgers on a twenty five acre field. We used to have a good population of Green plover, now all gone. We have 3 pairs of Grey Partridges but the partridge population does not increase despite never shooting them. We are strong on green margins to our fields as well as beetle banks across the farm and I suspect that the badgers patrol our hedges and margins and just hoover up the eggs of our ground nesting birds. I have written to the GWCT twice about this problem and never had a reply. My letters asked if the GWCT had ever done a comparison of land that had been cleared of badgers to find out if the ground nesting birds had a better survival rate where there were no badgers. It would be an interesting research project and one that I would support. In my view we badly need a licensing system to control badger numbers, they are at the peak of the food chain and the only control of their numbers are landowners and farmers.


at 10:46 on 20/04/2021 by Andrew Wright

I forgot to mention the huge decline in Hedgehogs throughout the UK is due partly to the rise in Badger numbers (as well as vehicular use on roads). Hugh is correct this can of worms needs opening although there is a huge difference between Conservation and Preservation and Culling falls in between. This also could be an issue that the respective charities such as the RSPB could be included to address the need to cull, they are in the same boat trying to protect ground nesting birds on numerous reserves. As I said educated heads addressing the problem in a sensible and calculated manner, not bunny huggers!

Badger predation

at 10:45 on 20/04/2021 by Paul Bowman

It has been known for years that badgers will eat anything they can catch (They are omnivores). They are the only british mammal to predate on hedgehogs, I have had wire netting ripped off arcs and the goslings eaten, they will eat any lamb they can catch (especially weak ones) they were sighted actually hunting lambs on one local farm. Sorry but these are meat eaters and strong vicious killers. Why not put electric stock fence instead of rabbit wire they do not like electric shocks. Maybe the badgers that are predating should be removed as a precaution??

On badger predation

at 10:39 on 20/04/2021 by Stuart Martin

Is this remotely surprising to anyone who has any interest in/knowledge of conservation? Badgers are at the apex of the food chain in the UK - apart from vehicles have they a known predator? We have to stop this pussy footing around and call out a simple fact - there are too many damn badgers about. I walk at night the footpaths across the fields surrounding us - there are hares (not many but a few that our local friendly travellers have not yet coursed), rabbits (not vast numbers but 'plenty enough'), roe deer - a decent head - 7-10 observed usually - foxes (2-3 and I am doing my best!) - and badgers - usually 5-6 on any given night. I have not seen a hedgehog on our own land for more than 7 years - the last one I saw was dead on the road about 6 months ago..... Badgers are ground predators and will eat whatever they come across - and as part of this they predate on hedgehogs - very simple. We certainly do need a grown up conversation about how to preserve and conserve in a balanced manner - how to get the likes of Chris Packham etc to acknowledge the facts will be another matter entirely - but we must try!

Badgers > Hedgehogs gone

at 10:39 on 20/04/2021 by HPT

Up until 12 months ago my Labradors would regularly bring me hedgehogs in the evenings resulting in a release process maybe not practiced at fields trials. Over the last year we have seen increased evidence of badgers and none of hedgehogs except a skinned body.

Badger Predation

at 10:16 on 20/04/2021 by c Sandham

I have observed a surge in the Badger population in my vicinity . A large set very near my property which is very active. At the same time the Hedgehog population has plummeted. Have seen evidence of young Hogs upturned and vicerated. . Is there evidence of Badgers having impact on the demise of Hedgehogs I am wondering?


at 10:15 on 20/04/2021 by Andrew Wright

Is it not time we had a grown up conversation regarding these creatures and the steady acceleration of their population due to needless and extreme levels of conservation. We have seen areas of forestry closed off from access or disturbance because of Badgers, motorways fitted with access tunnels, Urban encouragement and feeding, they have benefited hugely from stringent protection and conservation. But as the late Prince Phillip once quoted Conservation is not about bunny huggers, its about balanced and educated individuals getting together to address the very issues we are now seeing throughout the UK. Scotland is fortunate that TB is not present, yet!. It is not just Badgers there are other invasive species either reintroduced or protected that are also adversely affecting the balance of nature, I can guess the future issues with Beavers and possibly Lynx on the horizon. A point must come where the people that work the land for whatever cause are included with other like minded people of knowledge to reach an agreement on controlled culling and sustainable population levels. Not people influenced by Media and Fiction. If this continues we will find areas like deserts with no ground nesting birds, Badgers will eat nearly anything it can find so the problem will be with other creatures such as Leverets, field voles, water voles etc etc. We need to take a stand on this and many other issues before our countryside is limited to apex predators in abundance.

Badger predation

at 9:52 on 20/04/2021 by Hugh Warmington

Isn't it time to ask a more fundamental question: why are badgers protected? Conservation is not the same as preservation. This is a can of worms that needs opening.

Badger Predation at Auchnerran

at 9:31 on 20/04/2021 by Mike Wells

Is there any evidence from the camera footage of whether this is a habit that one particular badger has developed or whether it is a larger number of badgers feeding opportunistically? Responses may need to be adjusted depending upon the answer.

Badger predation at GWSDF Auchnerran

at 8:59 on 20/04/2021 by Jeremy Lesiourd

Good morning Unfortunately it isn't only lapwing nest which are subject to predation from badgers but curlews, grey partridges, corn bunting, Skylar, and many others ground nesting, red listed species. As mentioned in your article, the use of deterrent like rabbit net has limited effect. Is it not time to have a proper discussion about controlling badgers???

Make a comment

Cookie Policy

Our website uses cookies to provide you with a better online experience. If you continue to use our site without changing your browser settings, we'll assume you are happy to receive cookies. Please read our cookie policy for more information.

Do not show this message again