Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Roadkill

I live in a semi-rural setting, the front of the house looks out on to the untouched beauty of the Pennines* - the back looks out onto an industrial estate.

I have mentioned my disinterest in TV soaps. But I did follow a radio soap for a few years: The Archers. And I still tune in occasionally to see what's happening. The actor who played Phil Archer died last week.

One of the interesting things about the Archers is its original remit: To educate town dwellers about life in the country, and it still does that job. I suspect that is one of the reasons for its continuing survival and success - a genuine purpose. As the years have passed it has covered many subjects including the urbanisation of villages.

A few mornings ago I had taken the dog for his early morning walk when I spotted something lying in the lane we were climbing, something grey and fuzzy. My first thought was that a cat had been hit by a car - but it would have to be a damn big cat. The dog was curious but willing for me, as pack leader, to do the initial investigation. The responsibilities of leadership.

It was a badger. With no apparent cause of death.

On the one hand it was sad but then I'd never actually seen a badger up close (even a dead one) and one part of me was making notes. On the other hand I was glad there were badgers in the area. We have foxes, of course, and we have at least three varieties of owl; we have bats; innumerable small rodents that the cats like to bring home (dead or alive), and rabbits a-plenty. I have seen other creatures in the distance which I couldn't name, ferret-like so maybe they were, or stoats, or rats. Skylarks nest regularly round here. And we see the occasional hare.

So seeing a badger was good. Except it was dead. It could have been hit by a car but there was no blood and, to be honest, on that part of the lane vehicles don't go fast - they can't.

On my return I spoke to the Teacher, having a nagging thought in the back of my mind that we were required to report dead badgers. If there's one animal that cattle farmers don't like, it's badgers. Because of the threat (real or otherwise) of bovine tuberculosis infection. And some farmers will poison badgers, though it's a crime punishable by fines or even imprisonment.

You see we have a local farmer who supplies organic milk and organic beef. The badger was lying by one of his fields.

The Teacher thought we had to report it too (we listened to the show together mostly), made a couple of calls and yes, we were required to report it. But I wouldn't have known if it hadn't been for the Archers.

The badger's body was gone by the next day. I doubt we'll hear any more about it.

I hope the farmer hadn't been silly.


* When I say "untouched" I mean: heavily modified by the hand of Man dating back at least two thousand years. Anyone who admires the natural beauty of the British countryside is ignorant of the truth. Almost no part of the British countryside is untouched. The Pennines were once wall to wall trees (the name of our town means "mossy wood"), part of the coast to coast forests that covered the land filled with danger. Until they were chopped down to build ships, make it safer and clear it for grazing animals. I like industrial archaeology.



What's on the turntable? "Never Forget" by Fleetwood Mac from "Tusk"

3 comments:

Jon Peacey said...

I'm surprised you've not been up-close and personal with a badger (dead or alive) before. I've noticed they have a rather silly tendency to shuffle up the soft-shoulder of lanes... particularly at twilight. And watching their bottoms hurriedly wibble side-to-side is quite amusing.

A lot of the fresh roadkill I've noticed over the years has been apparently untouched whether it be fox, badger, rabbit or pheasants (pheasants are especially prevalent along the hill-stretch of the A40). I asked someone about it once and apparently the larger creatures get clipped by vehicles and, while often killed outright, they look unharmed then they subsequently get swept onto the carriageway by other vehicles to later conform to the more regular roadkill image.

So, I doubt it was a sinister conspiracy... although... have you seen lights hovering in the skies above recently?

Adaddinsane said...

Quiet lane, very little traffic, very narrow, horrendous potholes.

Don't get me started on pheasants - stupidest creatures going.

Cattle farmers don't like badgers, maybe intellectually they don't mind, maybe they even find bottom wibbling amusing. But they *really* don't like them anywhere close to their cattle. Not a conspiracy thing, it happens.

Jon Peacey said...

I'm not disputing the mutual antagonism of the badger-farmer paradigm (get me using the fancy words!) but on my nearest, exceptionally busy, dual carriageway I've seen numerous corpses (some even animal ;) which have looked apparently untouched. Yet have been hit by cars doing 70 or 80. And I've seen corpses on quiet country lanes which have been hit at very low speed and been smushed to stew-fodder.

I guess what I was really trying to say was... you just never can tell...

And who knows, aliens might one day branch out from cattle abductions to badgers! :)