Last night at about 2 O’Clock in the morning I was awoken by the sound of something scrabbling against wood below my second storey window. I generally sleep with the window slightly open, even in the cold of winter.
Once I was fully awake I realised that the sound was being made by one of the badgers that have made their sett among the pine trees a few yards away. One of these badgers sounded like he was either trying to scramble over the fence or through it.
I got up and kneeled on my bed to see if I could see anything. At first I could only see the trees lit by the lamppost on the path and hear a scrabbling sound coming from among the trees.
Suddenly a horrible squealing and shrieking began, as though someone were torturing an animal. This shrieking went on for several minutes and became gradually more desperate. All at once a smallish badger darted out of the undergrowth and made a run for it, pursued by two other badgers. He doubled back for some reason, perhaps because he came up against the fence that separates our building from the junior school next door. He was soon jumped upon by the bigger of the two chasing badgers.
Soon all three badgers were squirming and writhing on the ground and while it was clear that the larger badger was attacking the smaller one, it was hard to see what the third one was doing. Was he joining in the beating or was he – she? – trying to come between them?
Either way, they writhed on the ground for a few more seconds before disappearing once again into the trees just a few feet away. At no time did the shrieking stop and I felt sure that the smaller badger had stumbled into the other badgers’ territory and was now paying the price.
Then a pretty black cat with white markings, attracted by the commotion, arrived on the path and stood poised on three legs, ready to make a quick exit if necessary. It kept trying to peer into the trees to see what was happening. The shrieking was so frightening that the cat ran off, though it can’t have run far because a couple of minutes later it emerged from the trees close to where the attack was still going on. This time, however, the cat decided not to hang around and ran away for good.
Two of the badgers scurried out from under the trees and disappeared to my left. I heard them hurriedly squeezing through the wooden fence of the school. A sensor triggered a light in the school building and for a short time there was the sound of animals moving quickly away. Then everything fell silent.
I lay back down again. The whole incident had lasted about 15 minutes and the shrieking had continued for nearly all of that time. The incident had scared me a little because it reminded me that the world can be quite a violent place. I usually forget this because I live in an unusually safe bubble in suburbia. I could imagine the dread of the animal when it realised it had blundered into the territory of a rival gang and was now trapped. It was neither big enough to fight its way out nor quick enough to run away and it was probably losing strength the longer the attack lasted.
It occurred to me as I lay there that at that same moment similar incidents were probably being played out thousands of times all over the world. Quite probably several humans also found themselves in similar situations to that poor badger and wouldn’t be alive the next morning. Hmm, nice thought. Go back to sleep.