Last Saturday I had the privilege of going out with Debbie & her team on the 1st vaccination morning of this year’s season. I’ve been involved in every ‘backroom’ aspect of the vaccination project from the start – from writing grant applications, fundraising to ordering peanuts and other supplies. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the actual field work involves.
Seeing the vaccination team at work is – literally - a real eye-opener. The alarm went off at 3.30 am – EYES OPEN, GET IN THE SHOWER, WAKE UP, COFFEE, GLAD I’M NOT DRIVING, DID I REALLY VOLUNTEER FOR THIS??? No time to waste, they don’t hang around for late comers!
We arrived at the meet with half an hour to spare and watched the sky lighten with the promise of a bright sunny day. At 5am the ‘fun’ began as the team swung into action with military precision. The runners went off to check the cages and I waited with Debbie back at base. Then the reports started to come in … which cages held a badger?
Debbie calmly completed the paperwork, made up the vaccine and placed the syringes in the carry cases.
Once all was ready, the two vaccinators split up and we followed them out to the cages. Most of the others had been out pre-baiting, cage setting in preparation for today and knew the site well. I followed down a maze of paths to the target cage sites, admiring their navigation skills.
The first badger was fast asleep and hardly noticed being vaccinated, fur clipped and marked. Grudgingly woke up once the trap door was opened then scampered off through the undergrowth back to the safety of the sett. Next was a frisky cub that wriggled around and did it’s best not to help the vaccinator! The badgers all seemed in good health, but a couple had damaged eyes – it’s very common and does not seem to trouble them over much. I just don't understand how anyone could shoot these lovely animals when vaccination is available.
As the morning progressed, we worked our way across multiple sites, checking cages, check & record badger's health, vaccinate, clip fur and spray mark, then wait a minute or two before release - walk to next cage and repeat. We’d finished a complicated round in good time by 8 am.
By the end, I felt wide awake, and totally elated to have seen badgers so close in the wild. I’m just tremendously proud of everyone in the vaccination team. Their organisation, commitment at
professionalism is just awe inspiring. I was really well looked after - they made sure I got to see plenty of badgers and took care to make sure I didn't
trip or fall behind. Much appreciated, as I struggle with field work these days. due to my health.
The team have a week’s break before moving onto the next round …. I shan’t be there, but my heart is with them and the work they do.
Linda Ward, Trustee