Anecdotal evidence suggests that badgers are moving out of woodlands on to moorland, which is having a detrimental effect on the populations of rare ground-nesting birds. Moorland expert Geoff Eyre contacted Shooting Times after he found that badgers were enlarging old rabbit holes on parts of his local moorland at Offerton Moor in the Peak District: Could the invasion of badgers, moving from woodland to moorland fringe bracken beds, have contributed to the downfall of the twite over the past 10 years? I know some conservationists who have been trying to increase lapwings have found lapwing eggshells in badger droppings and sand traps around nests showing badger footprints.
Research commissioned by DEFRA between 1999 and 2007 entitled The ecological consequences of removing badgers from the ecosystem found that species such as hedgehogs and ground-nesting birds benefited from badger removal: Though badgers are known to eat birds and their eggs, their potential impact on avian populations is not clear. There is anecdotal evidence from game managers that badgers have periodically been responsible for heavy losses of gamebirds, particularly eggs and chicks. However, Dr Stephen Tapper, of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, pointed out that more research into the effects of badgers on moorland needs to be commissioned:
While there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that badgers raid the nests of ground-nesting birds such as partridges and pheasants, there has been little scientific research showing how serious the effects are. If badgers are becoming more common along moorland fringes we would be concerned about the breeding success of waders such as lapwings and curlew as well as the rarer gamebirds such as blackgrouse. We certainly need more studies on the impact of burgeoning badger numbers on other wildlife.
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The rest of this article appears in 20th March issue of Shooting Times.