A COUPLE from Checkendon rescued an extremely rare white badger after they found her dehydrated and underweight due to the recent hot weather.
Julian Pucill, 62, and partner Belinda Burchell, 53, visited the badger daily for a month to make sure she got enough food and water.
Badgers find it difficult to find earthworms and nuts when high temperatures dry out the soil.
Mr Pucill, who works as an engineer, found the animal, which was believed to be 16 weeks old, in the corner of the garden by the bins when coming back from walking their two dogs.
He had then gone inside to shower but came back out to investigate after one of the dogs, Sasha, started barking, as it was out of character.
Mr Pucill said: “I wasn’t completely sure what it was at first because of the color but I thought it could be a badger because of its characteristic snout and claws.
“It was a sandy white colour, about the size of a cat and it was curled up looking sorry for itself.
“We put water out for her and hoped that the mother would come back for her or she would wander off but she was still there two hours later at 5pm.”
The pair then called the Oxfordshire Badger Group, who picked the badger up the same day and said she was in a bad state and very dehydrated.
Ms Burchell, an accountant, said: “We didn’t get too close when we first saw her and we kept the dogs inside.
“When Debbie White from badger rescue came, she was in a bad way so she was able to be picked up by the scruff of her neck, which she said she wouldn’t have been able to do with a badger her age if she had been fit and healthy.”
The badger was then taken to the Oxfordshire Wildlife Rescue Center in Didcot to be treated. Staff gave her fluids and a de-wormer and she began to improve.
Ms White named the badger Elsa — named after the main character from Disney’s Frozen — due to its colour.
They kept Mr Pucill and Ms Burchell informed about her progress and warned them that the next 24 hours would be crucial for her survival. Within a week Elsa put on between 600 and 700 grams and she made a full recovery after two weeks.
Ms Burchell said: “Debbie texted us every couple of days to update us on Elsa’s progress and send some photos. We loved being part of her rehabilitation progress and the place she stayed in was very smart.
“We had friends who were also just as eager about hearing about her so we forwarded this info to them. We were all excited about being part of her release from her.”
When she was released back into the wild, Mr Pucill and Ms Burchell were given a one-hour talk on badgers from the conservation charity and were asked to continue feeding Elsa until the weather improved.
Ms Burchell said: “The funniest thing we learned is that badgers have a winter home, a summer home and a holiday home.
“The holiday home is if the family get too many fleas they go and find another home until the fleas have all died at the normal home before they return.
“We learned about the ongoing tuberculosis inoculation program that the badger rescue runs in association with the local farmers and how TB isn’t really a big issue in badgers as we are led to believe.
“The badger rescue is soon to be counting all the various colored badgers can be, I was very naïve previously and thought they only came in black and white. We also learned that Elsa would be old enough to go out and find her own beau de ella in September. ”
Elsa is not an albino but she is an erythristic badger. These badgers have no pigmentation and instead have reddish brown fur where the black usually is. This is caused by a genetic mutation.
The badger conservation charity also carried out research into where she may have come from to try and find her clan. At the time she was released they were confident they had found the right spot.
Ms Burchell said she was pleased to be asked to have a role in reintroducing Elsa back into the wild.
She said: “On the day of the release as we approached the set Elsa got very excited in her basket. She was jumping up and down with excitement. As soon as she was released she ran straight there with no hesitation. However, the next day she was spotted sleeping outside during the day, so we were concerned she had been rejected.
“This was why a camera was installed by her set, just for a few days. She was spotted successfully feeding at midnight, 2am and 4am.
“Debbie said she was probably badger jetlagged on the first few days. At the rescue center she had been on human time so it would have taken a day or two to get back on to badger time.”
The couple are still going out once a day to feed her at about 8.30pm as they are coming towards the end of the prepared food that they had been supplied with.
This comprised a mix of dry dog food, first soaked for one hour, and bird nuts and friends also helped them to feed her.
Ms Burchell said: “We’re really pleased we helped her and that she’s okay. We really enjoyed the whole process.
“We haven’t seen her when we take food out but it’s good because she needs to do things on her own — we’ve done our part.”