A CAMPAIGN is under way to raise awareness around Scotland’s badgers.

Despite being the nation’s fourth-largest land mammal, badgers are seldom seen out in the wild due to their timid and nocturnal nature.

Wildlife groups now want to challenge myths and perceptions around the creatures as part of Scottish Badger Week.

The week is one of two awareness campaigns run by Scottish Badgers throughout the year along with Brocktober in October.

Elaine Rainey, programme manager of Scottish Badgers, said: “What we are trying to do is raise awareness about badgers and the issues that they face while trying to reach as wide an audience as possible.”

In Scotland, badgers and their setts are protected, but they still face persecution and licences are needed for activity within 30 metres of a badger sett.

Rainey said: “There’s various strands of badger persecution. It could be deliberate acts such as badger baiting, or badger digging, but we’ve also got issues like unlicensed or illegal agricultural operations or forestry operations where badgers and their setts might be damaged. Sort of reckless, way of otherwiselegal activities.”

Badger baiting is a blood sport where badgers are forced to fight with dogs, Rainey emphasised, “It is an issue in Scotland, people think that fighting with dogs is a thing of the past, a Victorian sport, but it still happens across Scotland,” Rainey said.

“Badgers are protected and their setts are protected, but their foraging grounds are not.”

The creatures were nearly extinct in Scotland at the end of the 19th century but are now in recovery.

It is estimated that there are around 9500 badger setts but the current badger population is not known, a survey is currently being carried out with the results expected in 2025.

The three-year survey, Get Sett Scotland is a citizen science project which aims to discover the density and distribution of badger setts in Scotland.

The survey examines 1000 one-kilometre squares across the country searching for signs of badger activity and sett disturbance.

As with most wildlife in Scotland, badgers are facing challenges sourcing food due to increasing temperatures.

The majority of a badger’s diet is made of earthworms, and during warmer weather the worms dig further into the ground making it difficult for badgers to forage.

Rainey explained: “Badgers have to work harder for their food and they expend more energy to get the same amount which will have an effect on their ability to get enough food.”

With limited food options, the animals are increasingly venturing closer to human habitation resulting in more road causalities, the main impact on badger populations.

They also have a bit of a bad reputation as being aggressive, carriers of disease, and as predators of hedgehogs and bumble bees. In addition to this, they are often associated with bovine tuberculosis (TB) which has resulted in culling in England. Scotland is a TB-free zone and there is little evidence of badgers preying on hedgehogs.

Lyndsay Mark, Scottish wildlife trust visitor experience manager, said: “They come out at night and I suppose they can be quite secretive and quiteshy. They’re not brazen like foxes.

“You don’t tend to see them very often, often the only times that people have seen them are dead at the side of the roads, unfortunately.

“We are trying to bridge that gap, so that people are getting to see the badgers rather than going oh, these are really vicious horrible creatures.

"That’s not the case. They are really sociable and keep to themselves.”

The week coincides with the start of the badger-watching season as cubs start to emerge from setts. Badgers can be viewed from Falls of Clyde from May to August.

Scottish Wildlife Trust organises badger-watching events.

Mark said: “Falls of Clyde has badgers all over it, you can’t go a few metres without seeing badger snuffle holes or diggings.

“What’s important is being able to go to a sett and you can be far enough away to not disturb them but be able to get some good views. It feels really special to take people to see them, it’s really natural.”

Events are taking place throughout the week to celebrate badgers including talks, stalls and badger watches.