We return to our trail camera in the 'village square' cleared by the badgers above their sett. It's now mid-May and we're hoping to see cubs!
Using the UK as a guide, cubs are usually born around February, with two or three in a litter. During March and April they'll start to explore the tunnels and chambers of the sett, gradually coming nearer to the entrances.
Some great footage of the adults, larking around, but what about the cubs?
Well it could be that breeding wasn't successful this year, or that we've found an outlying sett that the badgers just visit. But we wonder if it's also to do with the altitude and climate here. Prespa is 850m a.s.l. (nearly 3,000ft) and winters and early spring are much colder than lower levels. Maybe the badgers give birth a little later.
What does the video tell us though? Well for one thing, the adults are much more active than they were in March and April. Badgers don't hibernate, but they do slow down, and when there's snow and the ground is frozen, it's difficult for them to forage for food, as it is for all animals. But once spring starts they're out and about, and can eat hundreds of earthworms a day.
Badgers are nocturnal and shy animals, but a trail camera allows us to see them at ease. On a walk in winter we found a huge group of bushes and brambles that had half a dozen worn down paths leading in and out of it. Around the bush were various tunnel holes, some groomed by the badgers, some a bit rough. It seemed to be in use. We left a camera near a groomed tunnel and returned after a week. Badgers going in and out every night. Perfect!
But how best to see cubs, once they arrived? We got on hands and knees, and with a pair of garden scissors, scrambled through one of the paths. And here we found the village square; the bush inside had been cleared of tree branches and vegetation. The perfect place for our camera.
So we imagine that the badgers do live below this bush, in a system of tunnels and chambers that we call 'a sett'. Incredibly, setts and the paths around them can be centuries old. In this video we see three adult badgers, but a sett can hold a family of six, sometimes more.
Badgers are also quite the sophisticated animal, just like Badger in the Wind in the Willows, with special chambers for sleeping and birthing. They also keep their setts extremely clean. They won't bring food into the sett and don't have a bathroom inside either. Badgers dig small communal toilets around the perimeter of their territory!
Oddly, they'll share their setts with foxes, who are not as house-proud as badgers. Defacating and eating inside the setts. However, badgers have been recorded to leave a sett with foxes if the badgers are breeding. Hygiene clearly very important for them!
So, we keep watching, and waiting, and keeping our fingers crossed for some cubs... We'll have another look at the end of May.