For the last eight months I’ve been slowly but surely making progress on a badger photography project in the local private woods I spend much of my time in. Badgers are very difficult creatures to photograph for several reasons; first they are very conservative and do not like any changes to their environment, if they sense something is different or strange they will make a bolt for it, secondly they have an amazing sense of smell (some sources say 800 times that of humans!), third they mainly come out in the dark making photography more tricky and finally – after thousands of years of hunting – they do not like us humans one bit in the least and want to be as far away from us as possible!
I decided that in order to build a long term photography project with this family I would need to move very slowly with the aim of building trust so I could eventually get near to them to photograph and them observe them going about their daily natural activities. It would be a case of slowly slowly catchy badger…!
In order to build a good level of trust I’ve divided my project into several distinct stages. The first was to build a wooden hide nearby, this would be the basis of where I photograph and watch the badgers and where my customers could do so with me at a later date. It is a place away from their sett which they can feel relaxed with and comfortable while knowing that if they want to they can leave easily. Once the hide was built I then needed to get the badgers visiting on a regular basis. As with all animals, free food is always appreciated and I started leaving small but regular bait down at the same spot each day. My aim here was to give them a small amount of supplementary food, not to replace their whole diet. This means that they come down, tuck into some food and then disappear off into the woods after to continue their foraging and natural behaviour. Over the months I experimented with all sorts of foods and finally found one which is irresistable to them. Slowly but surely they got used to visiting the spot and hide, being such conservative creatures, once this daily visit gets set into their routine they continued to visit on a regular basis. The next stage was to get them used to human smells so I have been moving around the area lots, leaving out t-shirts i’ve worn and sitting watching them when the visit. This slowly got them used to my smell so that they associated the food with it rather than fear it.
This long and drawn out process has been very productive and they are now visiting every night within around 30 minutes of me placing the food out. I am now at the point where I can sit a few metres away from them and watch them foraging and relaxing in the area. I am gradually getting them used to the strange clicks and flashes of my camera and have started to get some reasonable shots.
Assuming all continues to go well I will be running badger photography sessions from around October so if you’re interested please get in touch and we can arrange a date. This is a really special opportunity to get close to an animal which people very rarely see, there’s nothing quite like sitting in the dark hearing the cracking of branches (they’re not the stealthiest of creatures) all around only to see that very familiar black and white head poking out from the dark!