16 February 2012

Nuisance News, for the Observer Blog

Part One Mr Badger and Mr Fox
My friend Sharron has a communal toilet in the middle of her allotment. It's a little off-putting, and gives the impression that someone has been 'caught short' in an unsuitable place. In fact, it is a latrine for badgers. Their sett is in a bank overlooking the plots and location-wise it's pretty perfect. And even if it wasn't, badgers think nothing of bowling through carefully built fences when they want what is on the other side. They are the least fussy kind of omnivores and besides eating worms, unhelpfully, they also love anything which happens to be growing, whether it is a carrot underground or corn on a stalk. On this particular allotment in rural Northamptonshire, where people have stoves in their sheds and curtains in the windows, there is less fear of thieving from humans than there is from badgers.

Vigilance contributes to the industrial look of allotments and many productive back gardens. 'Badgers are a devil for bulbs,' says my friend Mr Messenger, whose most useful piece of kit is a collection of long metal mesh cloches which are stubbornly utilitarian in appearance. Mr Messenger is under siege: he puts cloches over his daffaodil bulbs on the edge of the garden to keep out the badgers, and cloches through the middle of the garden, to keep off cats. I sense that he likes a cloche, more perhaps than he dislikes a pest. At any rate, the latter are no match for him.

In the country, foxes are not even in the top five of the pest hit parade for kitchen gardeners (except for those with chickens). They could even be said to help restrain the rabbit population. But in urban kitchen gardens they dig things up like badgers do in their heedless quest for food, and people don't like to see their lovely lines of productivity wrecked by fox excrement.

I know a friendly pest control man who fights the fight in the middle of the Midlands. He maintains that 'deterrants' for foxes are a lot more effective than, say, the Pytchley Hunt. Every night foxes make the same rounds in their patch and go to the same places, marking the spot in the way that animals do.

'Take some human male urine,' he advises, 'and bottle it up. It's best to use wee from a young man under the age of 30, because of the high testosterone content.' Make yourself familiar with the nightly rounds of your regular male fox and go to each spot with your bottle of urine. Put down your own mark. 'That way a fox will feel that there is something bigger and mightier moving in and he will move out.'

The idea of bottling up a young man's urine is a bit Withnail and I but it's got to be worth a try. Urban fox catchers can charge £500 to trap and 'destroy' a fox and it is well known that when one goes another one moves in. Either way, you are in for the long haul once a fox takes up squatters' rights under your shed.

Nota bene: it is completely illegal to try anything which will interfere with a badger sett, though you are allowed to leave deterrants on their patrols. The badger has the edge on you as long as it is protected, so resist the temptation to do as you are done to.

1 comment:

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