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Gordon and the badgers

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The Mole | 17:29 UK time, Wednesday, 10 June 2009

grizzly_gordon.jpgAfter two weeks in deepest darkest Essex, being given the run around by some badgers that were very good at hiding, Gordon Buchanan made it to Pensthorpe still in one piece. So what was it with those elusive badgers, I asked him?

Looking grizzly and unshaven (and ever so slightly older than when he started) Gordon started at the beginning:

"The plan was to send me down to Essex and I blow open the doors on badgers and everything about them ... which sounded great on paper. But they are notoriously difficult animals to film. Most of their lives - something like 80% of their lives, in fact - they're underground, so that obviously has its challenges... They say that you should never work with animals or children, but really you should just never work with badgers or children.

They would pop out at 7pm which is an hour before going on air, but our slot was then about half way through the programme so you're waiting and thinking "Please stick around!" and they'd be coming in and out and in and out. Then it would be live over to us in Essex ... and the badgers had all disappeared!

One of the problems was that when the site was recced it looked fantastic. But that was in February. Three or four months on, all this undergrowth had sprung up and the badgers just sort of hid amongst it. We might have had eight badgers all around us but you still couldn't see them!

Another problem is that badgers are notoriously shy.

"Although Don [the man who had been studying them for the last 50 years] was able to go out and stand amongst them, they are very sensitive to any change. So a strange sight or sound - or a strange person suddenly showing up - well, they're wild badgers so they just disappear. In the end, we all had to be locked in this little hide and try to film everything from a distance."

But even when he did catch them on film, that wasn't the end of his problems.

"Don has known these badgers all their lives and could tell them apart just by looking at them. But one badger looks very much the same as another to me! They have grey bodies, a black-and-white striped head, and are all about the same size. We wanted to show these badgers' characters but to do that you have to know who they were. I was trying to take mental snapshots of anything that might make them stand out but it was really tough."

And this 'little hide' they were filming from, just how little was it?

"For one man it would have been palatial but there were four of us in this garden shed with all our equipment. And once we were in we were locked in because we couldn't walk around. It was quite intense with all of us having to stay quiet while also speaking to camera and doing the live TV. There was definitely a tinge of cabin fever."

So any plans for filming badgers again in the future?

"Definitely. They may have got away from me this time but I'll be back. No animal gets away from me forever!"


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