Death and poo

So, this is the post you have all been waiting for. The badger latrine post. Over the last few months I have been catching up on a lifetime of having missed out on ‘nature’. Some people recognise birdsong, birds, animal tracks and animal poo without really noticing it. I don’t. I was brought up in a semi-rural environment in 1960s and 70s Yorkshire. Pesticides were sloshed about willy-nilly, and every other ‘lad’ had a lurcher or a whippet or a ferret or two to massacre the wildlife, so although there was lots of countryside, not all that much lived in it. In any case, when you’re growing up, badger poo and owl pellets are much less likely to capture your interest than some gorgeous boy who looks like David Essex.

Now that I am older and wiser, being able to recognise the residents of our place has become much more important. Most of them (except the daft ones like pheasants and partridges) stay out of sight and out of mind as much as possible. But they leave tracks. Finding fox paw prints in the soft mud outside the barn door, I know the fox was sniffing around the house. That dog and cats choose to ignore him/her/them makes me feel even better, because it means they are getting used to the presence of creatures they used to be very wary of.

Unlike our nearest neighbour, who is also from the city and has developed an interest in the wildlife she now cohabits with, I don’t drive children to school at crack of dawn and see the night critters scurrying home. She has seen badgers and foxes, but I only get to see the tracks they leave behind. I have learnt, for example, that rabbits often borrow the homes dug out by bigger creatures. Which is why the big den in the bank across the road is inhabited by rabbits and hares as well as (probably) a badger. Badgers don’t mind. They build such huge rambling homes that there’s plenty of room for colonies of rabbits and the odd hare family.

I also learnt that badgers do their business in latrines that they dig at the limit of their territory, as far away as possible from their living quarters. Just along the road from us is a small family cemetery belonging to the people who live in the next property over the Caillou from us. Judging from the mementos placed on the graves, the men were great hunters.


They’ve been putting them in the ground here for centuries. This is the oldest part. I didn’t like to photograph the newer part which is on the right and covered in floral tributes.

It seems only poetic justice that the badger has made his/her latrine in the cemetery. If you’re curious, badgers do a huge quantity of poo. There are two latrines, full, and a new one they’ve dug, I suppose for exactly that reason. They trundle across the field, slalom down the bank and cross the road to to their business. This is the slide.

badger run

(Sorry about the tiny photoโ€”it does that sometimes) There are lots of these slides in the banks around the fields. The land is hilly and the fields always end in ditches to take the rainwater runoff. So, the badger slides down from the field, crosses the little road, and digs its latrines on the other side.

twin toilets.jpg


badger latrine1.jpg

The photos don’t show the scale very well, but that’s a lot of poo. Husband’s photos were better because it was sunny when we went out first. His phone won’t cough them up though, so I took these later just before the rain. Anyway, I thought it was fascinating, and I am discovering that finding clues to the presence of wild animals is as intriguing as actually seeing them.

For anyone wondering about the creature that lives in the culvert, judging from the prints it leaves, I think it’s a badger. It eats dog biscuit and Trixie’s dead voles, but the potato is still at the back there, and it has only nibbled at carrots and apples. I prefer to leave it to its own devices.


















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Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

39 thoughts on “Death and poo”

  1. Interesting! I confess that I’m terrible at noticing such things, but goodness, how could even I miss that great amount of poo? Great title to the post, too.

      1. It was just a quote from the Jurassic park film. When Jeff Goldbloom’s character comes across a giant pile of dinosaur droppings. If you haven’t seen the film then my joke has fallen a little flat. ๐Ÿ™

      2. Sorry, I’m useless on filmology. Is that the film that ends with them playing hide and seek with a couple of velociraptors? I did see that but I don’t remember anything else about it…

  2. My boys used to be fascinated by remnants of poo when they were smaller (thank goodness they examined them in the woods rather than bringing them in the house). Now they can’t even bear to go near the cat’s litter tray…

  3. Well you did threaten to show me these photos! I have to say it’s all very interesting, aren’t animals clever and inventive. The soil must be good with a cemetery and a Badgers latrine to feed it ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’œ

      1. They are very divided. Even here, most people are opposed to hunting, and of those who approve, most don’t actually own a gun or do any shooting, they just like the idea of it being a tradition so we should keep it.

      2. I see, I don’t know much about it really. I do remember when we were on holiday in France we were out on Sunday and these men signaled for us to stop. I was worried because they had shot guns. Turned out they were out hunting and wanted to cross the road with their dogs. They were very friendly. ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ’œ

      3. From December to February it’s a Sunday activity for a lot of men. Not many women. More and more people are actively opposed to it though rather than passively disliking it and the number of gun licences issued falls every year.

  4. I remember John Cleese playing an assassin in Whoops Apocalypse in the early 1980s. His character had many skills but chief amongst them was an ability to track any animal simply by seeing a tiny quantity of itโ€™s poo. If the poetry fails – can we say Assassin may be an alternative career … you have the cemetery to dispose of your kills. Great piece, by the way – I learned a lot and am reminded of much that I miss about living in the country. Including the poo.

    1. There’s a lot of it about! Let the Bean show you when you’re next in the great outdoors. Finbar finds all sorts of interesting excrement that I wouldn’t even have noticed. Have to be quick though as some of it has a tendency to disappear down his gullet. Hare droppings seem particularly delicious.

      1. I had a labrador who was a veritable connoisseur of poo but The Bean seems less interested. Which I canโ€™t say I mind at all. That said large fresh stinky wees are fair game to her pokey snoot!!

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