Excited to announce my latest story for National Geographic, on the very contentious badger cull in the UK. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/badger-culls-are-dividing-englands-rural-communities
It’s a clear October night near the village of Portbury, in Somerset, a county in western England. “We use this to monitor the badgers at night,” says my guide, an animal rights activist who asked me not to name her for her protection, as she hands me her thermal imaging scope. I train it on an ink-black line of trees and make out a few white dots. She asks for the device. They’re rabbits, she says.
As we follow a footpath alongside arable fields, she freezes: “Ooh!” she exclaims. “A badger!”
Sure enough, at the edge of the trees, I make out a shape with an arched back and long snout.
“Is it your first badger?” she asks. “Are you excited?”
Yes and yes.
The badger is Britain’s largest surviving terrestrial carnivore, after all other major predators, from wolves to lynx, have become extinct here. Residents since the end of the Ice Age, badgers are a keystone species whose presence helps keeps other animals—notably foxes, rats, mice—in balance. Their distinctive black-and-white face markings and comical gait, combined with their depiction in children’s classics, from the Beatrix Potter books to Kenneth Graham’s Wind in the Willows, have made them one of Britain’s most cherished creatures.