For 20 years a small group of people have been looking after the badgers of Oxfordshire. Formed out of a need to understand where badgers were living so they could be protected, the group has since built up extensive records about badgers in the county.

Patrick Parry Okeden and his wife Crystal have been members for about 15 years and Mr Parry Okeden edits the group’s newsletter, Etsettera. He said: “One of the things that happened at the beginning of the badger group was that there were three or four good naturalists who were able to cover a wide area and to record a large number of badger setts.

“So, we have extensive records. Obviously they are piecemeal across the county, because we have records only where somebody has been able to notice a sett and recorded it. Our records are fewer in the east of the county.”

It is important to have good records, for if development takes place somewhere where there is an unknown sett, the badgers may lose either their homes or access to their foraging areas.

Where the presence of a sett is known, or there is a possibility that there may be badgers at the site, prospective developers have to carry out an environmental survey. If there are badgers and the sett is in current use, mitigating measures have to be put in place.

In some situations, this may mean the digging of an artificial sett. The badgers are then given time to explore this and become used to using it. Once the badgers have got used to it, a one-way gate will be installed and then more time allowed to ensure that all the badgers have moved into the new sett.

Badgers may roam some distances on foraging expeditions, and sadly they have become a familiar sight by roadsides as traffic accident victims.

The group can make use of reports of such casualties, as they indicate where there may be setts not previously recorded, and also whether known setts are still in current use.

The group may also receive reports of injured badgers. Members will go out to investigate and, if possible, collect the badger and take it to a wildlife hospital.

On one occasion, a walker noticed a female badger dead beside a road. The group learned that there were three cubs, and a rota was organised for members to take turns in taking out daily provisions.

The cubs were old enough to be moving in and out of the sett, and, as they had not yet learned that it is at night that badgers mostly wander abroad, their visitors had the pleasure of seeing them.

The cubs appeared to thrive on their diet of moistened puppy food, and the supply chain continued until the owner of the land containing the sett offered to take over the daily feeding.

Another badger had the misfortune to find itself having to negotiate Witney’s notorious Bridge Street traffic. It was seen in broad daylight near the mini-roundabout at the Bridge Street junction with West End.

“It came from a walled front garden, where it had become trapped, but had made a determined effort to escape,” said Mr Parry Okeden. “It fled down the pavement, and around the corner, quite startling the shoppers.”

Recently, a telephone call came from a racing stables, where a badger had been discovered in the yard. The staff had shepherded it into a stable and wanted to know what they should do next.

The advice was to wait until dark, and then open the stable door and release it. No further reports were received, so it is hoped that all went according to plan.

As a result of information from the group, badgers that were affected by development in a garden in North Oxford were provided for by having the appropriate area fenced off.

Badgers continually need the group’s help, and the group would welcome more members to share in their work.

“With the increasing pressure of housing and road developments, there are a lot of pressing needs,” said Julia Hammett, the group’s chairman. “With our limited number of members, we would welcome more people who really want to make a difference to the environment to join us. It is a great way of getting involved.

“Being so involved is a good way to get out into the countryside. We go out into some wonderful areas through our badger work.”

Oxfordshire Badger Group member Diane Wilson recently photographed a regular visitor to her own small garden in Oxford.

“Every evening, usually before it is quite dark, he comes in under the fence for his supper,” she said. “A badger has powerful legs and fierce claws, great for digging, which badgers do a lot. They have poor eyesight but excellent hearing and sense of smell. Their favourite food is earthworms and they will scratch up the ground looking for them. But being opportunists, they will eat anything.

“For my badger, every evening I put out peanuts and a few sultanas, and anything else available. When we went out recently for fish and chips and had a lot of chips left over, he scoffed them eagerly. I know this is junk food, but he loved it, and it is a once-only treat for him, not on the menu every day.”

Patient waiting enables members to enjoy going out to watch badgers at their nightly business, especially when this includes watching groups of cubs at play.

The members have opportunities to join in organised badger-watching evenings and also to take part in an annual census, with which the group assists.

They can also learn how to be involved in other practical work in their own home areas, by monitoring a known sett and reporting of ones possibly not yet recorded.

Oxfordshire Badger Group can be contacted on 01865 881744, 01865 376446 or 01865 864107.

It is affiliated to the Badger Trust, a national organisation which co-ordinates conservation work with badgers countrywide and which can be contacted on 0845 287878. The trust also has a website and this has a link to the Oxfordshire Badger Group.