< > Glossary & References / Miscellaneous Documents List / B152 Problems with Badgers? Third Revised Edition 1994 / Text Sections:v
5.1 Badgers in the way of building developments
As towns and villages expand and greenfield sites become new estates and factories, there is an increasing number of occasions when an occupied badger sett is found to be in the way of a building programme. In fact it is a good idea for the developer to arrange for a survey by the local Badger Group, the county Wildlife Trust or an ecological consultant to check an area of woodland, hedgerow or pasture for the presence of occupied badger setts before outline planning permission is sought. It is far better for the developer to tell the local planning officer about the badgers, and to incorporate a statement as to what is intended for their welfare, than to ignore the possibility (or the known presence) of badgers and have the planners learn about the existence of badgers after much expenditure of time and money in preparing detailed plans. These may then have to be altered and adapted at further expense. Also, it is beneficial for Badger Groups or the county Wildlife Trust to monitor planning applications, since early warning of potential developments ensures that the area can be properly surveyed for setts, or provisions made for known setts.
Only if a badger sett can be proved to be long disused and empty can it be filled in and destroyed without a licence. However, it should be remembered that in winter setts may appear disused and badgers may not emerge from their setts for a number of days. Therefore it may be difficult to tell without expert help that a sett really is long disused and empty. So always err on the side of caution.
When badgers are found to be occupying land purchased for development, they are not causing any damage, they are just 'in the way' and so cannot be the subject of a Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food 'damage' licence (see 6.1 Chapter 6. Badgers Causing Damage). There is, of course, no option in law to have them killed.
There are several options available. In decreasing order of preference they are:-
The actions required for options (b) and (c) are described in 5.7 and 8.5 Chapter 8. Rehabilitating Badgers respectively, whilst option (a) is expanded in section 5.1.4 below. Options (b) and (c) will require licences, as may option (a) if some of the building work is undertaken in the immediate vicinity of the sett (i.e. within 20 metres of the holes). If in doubt, consult the Statutory Nature Conservation Agency.
The authorities for granting licences for interfering with badger setts to enable development as defined in section 55(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 or section 19(1) of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972, are the three Statutory Nature Conservation Agencies. Applications should be made to the addresses in Chapter 11. Useful Addresses, according to the country involved. These authorities will wish to have detailed plans as to what is intended for the welfare of the badgers and their setts, and if the badgers are to be moved, why they cannot remain in situ. If it is required that the use of a certain sett should be deterred, the licensing authority will need survey information on where the other setts of this social group are situated and whether these and the main feeding areas are to remain safe (i.e. have the badgers somewhere else to go?). Otherwise, have arrangements been made to provide an artificial sett or setts in a protected area? If the sett to be removed is an old traditional main sett, this causes many more problems than the removal of an annexe or outlier sett. If it is then agreed by the licensing authorities that sett deterrence could be used, they may stipulate when and how this is to be done, and if one-way gates are to be used, the length of time for which the gates are to be left open, two-way and one-way (which may vary with the season - see 5.7.2). They may also stipulate what precautions have to be taken before a sett can be declared empty.
If an entire social group is to be removed (and such licences are seldom given), then information will also be required about the site where the badgers are to be released. Ideally, this should be within 30 kilometres of the original site and within the same county (see 8.3 Chapter 8. Rehabilitating Badgers), although often this may not be practical, especially if the area already has a large badger population. In such areas translocations are difficult because there is a shortage of vacant territories, and any vacant areas are likely to be colonised fairly soon by the local badgers. Agreement for the move should have been obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (or the Scottish or Welsh Office) as well, because of the potential disease problems (see 6.7 Chapter 6. Badgers Causing Damage). Licences are unlikely to be granted for action during the breeding season, whatever the urgency. The developer will be expected to fund all these arrangements as there are no state funds for such projects. It will be seen that there are many advantages in option (a) that accommodates the sett within the development, as licences are not normally needed and work on the development is not delayed.
It should be remembered that the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 was not intended to prevent development when badger setts are present. Hence the presence of a badger sett, although providing grounds for objection, does not oblige a planning authority to refuse development, although it may be one aspect taken into account when considering the conservation value of an area. Circular 27/87 from the Department of the Environment states that' One of the essential tasks for Government, local authorities, and all public agencies concerned with the use of land and natural resources is to ensure effective conservation of the landscape, its wildlife and nature resources while making adequate provision for necessary development and economic growth'. Thus when considering any planning application, the Local Authority should take account of the presence of badgers, and the likely effects of any development on them. This may lead them to require that provisions are included to ensure the welfare of the badgers.
However, to object to a planning application, many local residents contact their nearest Badger Group or county Wildlife Trust in the hope that the presence of a sett, or even badger activity on the site, means that they can stop the development proceeding. This is a misunderstanding of the aims of the 1992 Act. Because it is primarily welfare legislation, the welfare and continued survival of the badgers are likely to be the main considerations before any licences are granted. The licences make the ensuing arrangements legally binding. Also, the relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Agency may entertain objections to a development in areas where setts are rare or unique. If the planning application proceeds despite these objections, then a licence would be issued by the Statutory Nature Conservation Agency, but it would be the developer's problem to resolve; there is no provision to kill badgers in the way of a development.
Although we have just said that the 1992 Act is not conservation legislation, there are many areas in the north of England where, because of the high level of 'digging' in the past, there are many fewer setts than in the south, and in large parts of East Anglia badgers are rare because of past persecution by gamekeepers. Thus, each remaining sett is now of greater importance to local naturalists and to the continuation of the national distribution pattern than may be the case elsewhere. In those situations it is to be hoped that planners/developers/conservationists would be sympathetic to their continued occupation of their native district wherever possible, and perhaps also undertake measures designed to provide the badgers with greater security. Certainly, in such areas it is likely that the Statutory Nature Conservation Agency will operate more stringent licensing conditions.
If this approach is to work, early consultation between the developer, the Planning Department of the Local Authority, the Local Authority ecologist and the local Badger Group and/or Wildlife Trust is desirable. Many developers will respond positively to reasonable suggestions, since they do not want to engender local hostility that may reduce their chances of a successful planning application. We have even known situations where several very expensive houses were omitted from the original plan in order to increase space for a badger sett. However, at present we have very little idea as to the minimum requirements for badgers that are threatened by a development, and so the advice given below is at best tentative.
The sett area itself should have a buffer zone between the entrances and the first buildings and it is helpful if these could be the lowest density housing in the development so that the sett does not appear crowded in. Allow a minimum of 20 metres (and preferably much more) between the sett entrances and any surrounding fence so that the protected area is not too small. This will also make it less likely that the digging of the nearest foundations will cave in unknown tunnels. The sett surroundings should be allowed to become overgrown with brambles, hawthorn and nettles both to provide cover for the badgers and to deter children from examining the sett too closely. Planting could be undertaken if the area lacks cover, but planting rooted shrubs over setts will require a licence. Wild flower seeding could be used as well and the care of the area taken over as a reserve by the local Wildlife Trust, the Badger Group, or better still guarded by the local inhabitants. Sometimes it may be necessary for a badger-resistant fence to be constructed around the sett area, with fenced routes to the outside for foraging. These fenced routes separate the badgers from the new gardens and avoid early local antagonism. Badger paths and human paths should remain separate and, of course, dogs should be kept out of the badger area. However, the effects of restricting badgers to limited pathways are not known, and it also makes the badgers very vulnerable to being blocked in or interfered with by an unsympathetic local resident. So if possible, it would be better to leave the access to the sett area more open and allow the badgers to choose their own pathways.
Remember that the badgers will still need large areas to forage, especially if they are to be kept out of the gardens of the new houses. If possible this should not entail crossing busy main roads, though sometimes this is unavoidable. In areas of poor habitat, in which badger density is naturally low, larger areas need to be left in which the badgers can forage. Paula Cox, in her booklet Badgers on Site - A Guide for Developers and Planners (see Chapter 12. Further Reading), suggests maintaining a feeding area nearby by mowing part to a height of 5 centimetres to encourage a convenient earthworm supply, with other areas of longer grass to encourage voles and vole nests. However, whilst this may be advantageous, earthworms only form a small part of the diet of badgers in suburban areas, and they seem to be reluctant to use areas of open grass for foraging, perhaps because they are particularly vulnerable to disturbance. When suitable (generally large) gardens are available, hand-outs from the local residents seem to be the favoured food for badgers! We are unsure as to how much badgers need access to water for drinking unless the area is very dry. Garden ponds, rain puddles and tree boles may provide all that is necessary, although some provision for water may be beneficial. However, a small pond dug in the protected area can be made an attractive and useful conservation feature and the whole badger sett area could provide a useful outdoor conservation laboratory for teaching school children in an increasingly urban environment.
It would be useful if Badger Groups and/or local naturalists would monitor the success of some of these social groups incorporated into housing and factory developments, as there is very little information on the long-term benefits for both badgers and man. Gathered wisdom may allow past mistakes to be rectified in future projects.
It is not only the developers who will need information on badgers; the builders themselves should be acquainted with the law regarding badgers and perhaps some basic badger biology. Although building operations can continue nearby during the breeding season, these should not be during the hours of darkness. Also, in order to prevent heavy plant moving across tunnels close to the surface, the sett area itself (i.e. an area 20 metres from the tunnel entrances) should be marked off with coloured tape or rope (see 4.1 Chapter 4. Protecting and Watching Badgers) or better still lightly fenced with either gaps at badger paths to allow access by the badgers or with a gap 30 centimetres high at the bottom of the fence all the way round. This shows the building workers and drivers where the sensitive area is situated. As it will appear like overgrown 'waste land', it may be used by motorcyclists or cyclists as a trials ground or race-track or for dumping rubbish; if this is a serious risk, then the. area should be protected with a more substantial fence. If there are no local inhabitants who can keep an eye on the area, the builders may need to warden it with a watchman.
The road network of Britain is under continuous review and development, probably never more so than at present. Thus old roads are straightened and widened and new motorways, slipways, by-passes and roundabouts constructed. It is quite common for occupied badger setts to be found in the path of construction.
In some ways, the problems are similar to those posed by building developments. The badgers are not causing any damage to property and there is no danger to man; they are just in the way. Road schemes usually have a long planning and consultation phase and this should enable any action to move the badgers away from the development scheme to be undertaken outside the breeding season. However, unlike many housing developments, the paths and lines of roadways are determined after considerable consultation, but once decided upon can rarely, if ever, be altered even by a few metres. Option (a) in 5.1.2 may thus not be available and so the badgers will need to be moved before the sett is destroyed. As noted in 2.2 Chapter 2. Badger Biology, badger social groups usually have more than one sett and, as the roadways seldom destroy all of these, it may be possible to deter the badgers from using the particular sett(s) 'in the way'. Either the badgers can be persuaded to use another sett nearby, or it may be necessary to build an artificial sett. These courses of action are described in 5.7 Chapter 5. Badgers in the Way and 9.4 Chapter 9. Useful Techniques.
Whilst remedial action to help setts threatened by road schemes is all too often essential, it is far better to try to prevent problems arising. So if the local Badger Group or Wildlife Trust are able to undertake surveys, they should register with the Department of Transport and the local County Council as consultants, and ask for all new road schemes to be notified to them as soon as is possible, so that they can report on the possible effects on the local badger population. The earlier a road scheme is reported to the local Badger, Group or Wildlife Trust, the easier it is to minimise the impact on the badgers. If you plan to undertake a survey, make sure that you are provided with drawings of the road scheme at least of scale 1:5000 or 1:10,000, since smaller scale maps will miss important details. When you survey the area, record all setts, whether they are active or not, since the situation might change before road construction begins. Remember also that it is not just setts near the road that may be threatened, but foraging areas for animals living some way off may also be disrupted. The area you need to search either side of the road depends on the local badger population density.
Having established the location of setts, foraging areas, latrines and paths (and this may necessitate repeat surveys at different seasons), try to estimate the disruption the road scheme will cause to the local badger population. This may involve bait marking (see 9.1 Chapter 9. Useful Techniques) to determine which groups of badgers are foraging in particular areas. Where badgers are active along the line of the planned route of a new road, or where the use of certain badger setts is to be deterred prior to a road being built, it is essential to stop badgers trying to cross the new road. This is for two main reasons. Firstly, road traffic accidents are a major cause of mortality for badgers in Britain, and the opening of a new road causes considerable mortality of all wildlife over the first few weeks or months. Secondly, hitting a badger, which may be up to 15 kilograms in weight, or trying to take avoiding action when travelling at speed on a dual carriageway, can be an obvious cause of accidents and endanger human life. Measures to prevent such accidents may include tunnels, fencing and/or reflectors. These are described in the following sections.
When remedial action cannot safeguard the badgers, it may be necessary to translocate an entire group of badgers threatened by a road scheme. Remember, however, that translocation is a last resort, and should only be undertaken when there is no suitable alternative sett, when it is not possible to build an artificial sett, when the new road works will divide the group's foraging area so that the chances of the badgers being killed crossing the new road are unacceptably high, possibly because it is not possible to install adequate fencing and tunnels, or when the road scheme destroys much of the badgers' foraging area. Then all the rules governing a translocation apply (see 8.5 Chapter 8. Rehabilitating Badgers). Applications for licences to deter the use of particular setts or to catch and translocate the badgers because they are in the way of the routes of new roads should be made to the appropriate Statutory Nature Conservation Agency.
Badgers can be re-routed and hence deterred from crossing the new road surface by putting in special underpasses. The construction of these is described by Jane Ratcliffe and in Ernest Neal's book - see Further Reading. With roads on embankments, concrete drain pipes (60 centimetres diameter) can be laid to form a tunnel with planked entrances where drainage ditches have to be crossed (fig. 4a). With flatter road systems there is usually a culvert laid to re-route a stream or ditch somewhere along the length. Such galvanised corrugated steel culvert pipes (one metre or more in diameter) can be laid with a raised badger path along one side (fig. 4b). Alternatively, some road schemes bisect farms, and then underpasses or overpasses are built for the movement of livestock and farm machinery. These are also ideal for badgers, and all that is required is secure fencing to ensure that the badgers use them. If the road is very flat and on the same level as the surrounding fields, with no culverts or agricultural overpasses available, then it may be necessary to build a tunnel with a 60 centimetre diameter pipe descending and ascending in the form of a 'V' or 'U'. However, the bottom point should have a drainage section and a gravel soakaway, and the slopes should be as gentle as possible to avoid slipping. Wherever possible the siting of these over or underpasses should relate to the position of the local setts and badger paths, and particularly where a hedgeline or some other linear feature would lead the badgers to the tunnel entrance.
Badgers usually take some time to start using tunnels. To help them start, some people have laid a scent trail of anethol to the tunnel entrance or have pulled the bodies of accidentally killed badgers through tunnels to lay badger scent in the pipe. If you are absolutely certain of the group's territorial boundary, scent trails of bedding and dung from that particular group of badgers may help lead the badgers through the tunnel, as will syrup and peanuts. Occasionally, problems may occur with other animals and/or children getting into badger tunnels. Livestock, most dogs, and children can be excluded by putting a wire grating over the tunnel entrance (to maintain air flow) with either a badger gate or a central lower gap at least 20 centimetres square.
The planning of new road schemes is carried out by the local County Council or the Department of Transport, depending on their local or national importance. The earlier that such authorities are appraised of the need for badger tunnels, the more likely they are to be included in the plan. Tunnels are expensive and, since you probably need a minimum of two for each group of badgers even though there may be several potential crossing places, selecting the best positions is critical. Installing a tunnel after road construction has started or is completed is prohibitively expensive and it is far less likely to be ideally sited. To be in at the planning stage requires that someone interested in badgers is monitoring the proposed road schemes in the area (see 5.2), and also knows enough about the distribution of badger setts in the area to know when a scheme threatens a particular sett.
In addition to installing the tunnels it may be necessary to fence up to 1000 metres on both sides of the road (see 5.2.2), depending on the size of the badger group's range, to stop the badgers crossing at any other points. Unfortunately, in a recent publication entitled The Good Roads Guide, the Department of Transport included some very poor advice on the installation of badger tunnels, in which they said that fencing is not effective and an unnecessary expense. Instead they said that vegetation surrounding the entrance to the tunnel makes it attractive to badger use. This advice is ill-conceived and not based on the available information, and apparently will be omitted in future copies of this publication.
With new housing estates, tunnels of the type described above are rarely if ever either practical or satisfactory. The problem is that badgers are often reluctant to use tunnels and have to be forced to do so. This necessitates good roadside fencing to prevent the badgers crossing the road other than by the tunnel. With housing estates, this is rarely possible and there are invariably many potential routes for the badgers through the gardens. Even if secure roadside fencing can be installed, it is impossible to prevent people leaving garden gates open! So a very different course of action is required.
The approach most likely to work requires action before building work commences. The travel route(s) most frequently used by the badgers should be located, and an underpass rather than a tunnel installed at the appropriate point (fig. 5). Hopefully, this will be at a natural gully. If an underpass has to be dug, this will require some form of drainage to ensure that there is no risk of flooding. To work, the underpass needs to be attractive to the badgers, so that they use it by choice rather than by necessity. Hence the need to site the underpass(es) on the preferred route of travel. Also, the underpass should be relatively wide (about five metres), but not high enough for a person to walk under. This will minimise the risk of human disturbance. If there is little or no cover, either side of the underpass should be planted with bushes, and street lighting should be positioned to minimise the amount of light around the underpass. Finally, low walls or fencing should be positioned either side so as to guide the badgers towards the entrance of the underpass and the underpass should form part of a wide greenway for the badgers, with plenty of cover and no public access.
Badger fencing is required either side of the over- or underpass, culvert or pipe entrance to guide the animals to the required point and prevent them from crossing the road elsewhere. Unfortunately, whilst there are many different types of fencing recommended for this task, we have no firm information on the relative effectiveness of the different types of fencing, and no fence is absolutely badger proof. So the fencing can only deter a badger from trying to cross a road, not prevent it.
One of the major areas from which we need more information is the effectiveness of different types of fencing, and at present we do not know why sometimes a fence works whereas in other situations it does not. The success of the tunnel or over- or underpass depends to a large extent on the quality of the fencing, and it should be said that sometimes badgers can be very determined at getting through, or climbing over, very substantial (and expensive) fences!
In the past, the fencing used was made of plastic-coated chain link fencing or 100 mesh galvanised wire sheep netting turned outwards below ground level towards the field and pegged to prevent digging under it (fig. 6). To be most effective, the fence should be at least 125 centimetres high, dug 50 centimetres into the ground, and with a right angle bend so that a piece of netting extends at least 50 centimetres in towards the field. When extensive lengths of fencing are required this may be prohibitively expensive, and a simpler and cheaper design with a right-angle bend has been used by the Eastern Division of the Department of Transport (fig. 7). Alternatively, a fence dug 30 centimetres into the ground and without a right-angle bend may be enough to deter a badger. However, it is important to insist on the greater depth and a right-angle bend near to setts, or other points where the badgers are likely to make a determined effort to cross the road.
Recently, the TWIL Group has produced a specially designed badger fencing; this is made of 2.5 millimetre diameter bezinel-coated wire and comes in rolls 25 metres long and 145 centimetres high; it can be fitted to specially made light-weight metal posts or to conventional wooden posts (fig. 8). This fencing is easily installed and comparatively cheap, so should be advantageous in encouraging transport authorities to fence roads to minimise badger fatalities and badger-related accidents.
Whatever style of fencing is used, it is important to ensure that the fence is installed well before the road is opened. Contractors rarely put up the fences adequately, and the environmental consultant advising on the scheme, local Badger Group, Wildlife Trust or local naturalists may need to block gaps left by poor joins, or gaps under the fence where there are streams, dips in the ground, or other irregularities. A determined badger can get through a very small hole, so the task is not easy, and the fence will need to be Checked regularly, particularly in the early days, to maintain it. Also, try and end the fence at a hedgeline, and turn the fence back along the far side of the hedge for a short distance. Badger tunnels do work if the job is done properly, but this usually requires a lot of hard work. You cannot just ask for a tunnel, and then leave it to the contractor or Local Authority to ensure that the job is done properly and that the fence is subsequently checked and maintained.
It is also important to ensure that any gates in the fence, allowing access for maintenance work, are also badger proof and must have a concrete sill beneath them to prevent badgers digging underneath.
Some Badger Groups recommend the use of one way badger gates (see 5.7.2), so that any badgers trapped on the carriageway can escape. However, these gates pose a number of problems, in that they are often vandalised and so need regular maintenance. If they fall into disrepair they allow badgers to get onto rather than off the carriageway, and in any case it is unclear if a badger trapped on the carriageway would find a gate and escape. Their installation is probably best discouraged.
Although badger setts may be built in roadside embankments, with relatively few badgers killed, regular road crossing points are often the sites for numerous badger fatalities. In such situations local Badger Groups have installed reflector posts to try to reduce the death toll. If you contemplate this course of action, remember that it is illegal to erect any reflector without first consulting the relevant authority, who may also organise their installation. It should also be remembered that if an accident is caused by an illegally installed reflector, or one that is sited so as to mislead a motorist, the claim for damages could be substantial. Hence some form of Public Liability Insurance may be advisable. For motorways and trunk roads, the relevant authority to consult is the Regional Controller for the Department of Transport, for other roads it is the Divisional Surveyor of the Highway Authority of the County Council. Any roadside sign or reflector must comply with the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 1981, and a company must obtain approval before it can manufacture and sell any reflectors. In addition, it is necessary to inform the gas, electricity and water companies, and British Telecom, to ensure that no interference would be caused to underground pipes or cables.
Reflectors have been used for some time for deer; those that have been tried with badgers consist of a post about 30 centimetres high with either a stainless steel dimpled mirror reflector (available from R & R Bassett - see Chapter 11. Useful Addresses) or a 'Swareflex' reflector (available from Berkshire Factors - see Chapter 11. Useful Addresses) (fig. 9). These reflect car headlights off the road, thereby giving an animal advance warning of the car's approach (fig. 10). The reflectors should be staggered along both sides of the road at approximately 15 metre intervals, and roofing felt placed around the post to suppress the growth of vegetation. Also, the stainless steel reflectors will need to be regularly cleaned with metal polish, and dirt from passing cars cleaned off the 'Swareflex' reflectors. In addition, encroaching vegetation will need to be cut regularly, and damage by vandals and posts lost during roadside maintenance operations necessitate frequent inspections. Thus reflectors require a lot of maintenance.
Whilst reflectors seem to be successful for deer, there is little evidence that they help reduce badger fatalities. In fact the manufacturer of 'Swareflex' reflectors do not recommend their use for badgers, only deer, and most studies in Britain and Holland seem to suggest that badgers soon become accustomed to the presence of reflectors. However, some recent trials with the stainless steel reflectors in Cornwall are thought to have reduced badger fatalities, and so further carefully monitored trials to establish their effectiveness may be beneficial.
In some areas, particularly in southern England, railway lines are being converted to ground level rather than overhead electricity supply. This can result in a heavy death toll, the famous example being over 100 badgers killed when the Tonbridge to Hastings line was electrified in March 1986. The toll can be reduced by having gaps in the electrified line positioned at particularly well-used badger crossing points. Many of the same considerations apply as discussed for tunnels under roads (5.2.1). A thorough survey is needed to ensure the correct siting of the crossing points, and this is particularly critical since the gaps are only about 3 metres wide. Where the badger path crosses the railway line at an angle, the gaps in the two lines may need to be staggered rather than being placed directly opposite each other. This is very important, and when engineers are left to their own devices, this may not be done. Thus someone from the local Badger Group or county Wildlife Trust or an experienced ecological consultant must be on site to advise on their correct positioning. Also, there is a limit to how many can be installed, since they are expensive and there must be a minimum distance of approximately 50 metres between gaps; the exact limitations will vary accordingly to British Rail's engineering considerations. Since there may be many badger crossing points, extensive fencing (fig. 6) along both sides of the line may be required to ensure that the badgers use the pre-selected crossing points. This can be done by installing badger gates at the relevant points in the fencing, with careful checking by an experienced person to ensure that the fence has been properly installed before the electric line comes into use, and thereafter the fence will need regular maintenance.
As with the tunnels under new roads, these crossing points can help to substantially reduce badger mortality, but they require a lot of work on the part of the local Badger Group or county Wildlife Trust, and early consultation with British Rail is essential. Remember also that railway lines are very dangerous places for people as well as badgers, and that permission and safety instructions will be required from British Rail before any member of the public can patrol and maintain the side fencing.
Where badger setts are in the way of the lines of new drainage channels, then the granting authority for any licences involved is the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in England and the Scottish and Welsh Offices in those countries except when they are being installed as part of a housing development, road scheme, etc. when it is the responsibility of the Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation. Methods of dealing with the problems are the same as those for building or road schemes.
Under section 10(2)c of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, a licence has to be obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Scottish Office or Welsh Office before a badger sett in a woodland area can be obstructed, damaged, destroyed or disturbed during forestry operations. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food are required to consult with English Nature and the Welsh Office with the Countryside Council for Wales over the issuing of licences, but whilst consultation with Scottish Natural Heritage is not required in Scotland, it is highly desirable because they have considerable expertise in dealing with badger problems. However, this consultation only involves reviewing the criteria under which licences are issued rather than specific applications.
With regard to the disturbance of setts in woodland during forestry operations, the Forestry Authority have drafted, in consultation with the licensing authorities, an Advice Note providing very useful guidelines for foresters to minimise the damage and disturbance caused to setts by forestry operations. Details are available from the Forestry Authority (see Chapter 11. Useful Addresses). Whilst following the guidelines may obviate the need to issue a licence, as well as benefiting the badgers, it must be stressed that they have no legal standing, and so the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (or Scottish or Welsh Office) should still be consulted before commencing forestry operations near a badger sett. This is particularly important because we still do not know just exactly how much disturbance is caused to badgers by forestry operations, and hence what is acceptable without a licence. Thus prior consultation with the appropriate authority is absolutely essential when there is any question as to whether the forestry action contemplated would in fact result in disturbance or damage to a badger sett, especially with the increased use of heavy machinery during forestry operations, and when these operations may be protracted.
Should it be considered that the above guidelines cannot be followed for some good reason, and that damage or destruction of a sett is inevitable, then the badgers would first have to be evicted under licence provided by the relevant Agricultural Department. For this to be practical, at least one substantial sett of the social group should be left intact for them to move into or an artificial sett constructed (see 9.4 Chapter 9. Useful Techniques). Remember that damage to setts and deaths of badgers by machinery during forestry operations could not be defended as being due to an otherwise legal action which could not reasonably have been avoided. This is because if a sett is known to be present then obviously it could be driven around, and so damage could be regarded as being wilful or reckless, and so an offence under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. Also, it may be hard for a forester to argue that he/she did not know of the presence of a sett, and that any damage was accidental.
As noted in 3.2.3 Chapter 3. Badgers and the Law, foxes will sometimes co-habit or shelter in badger setts, and this may cause problems to gamekeepers and farmers intent on fox control. The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 allows that licences can be granted for fox control in badger setts and determines that these should be issued by the Statutory Nature Conservation Agencies and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Scottish and Welsh Offices, with particular responsibilities given to each depending on why the foxes are to be controlled (see 3.2.6 Chapter 3. Badgers and the Law).
As with other licences to interfere with badger setts, they can only be issued for specific setts. Before an application can be considered, licence applicants need to state the location of the sett, provide evidence that serious economic damage is being caused by foxes or will occur if a licence is not issued, and show that all other methods of fox control are ineffective or impractical. Each case will be judged on its merits. The breeding season for badgers (see 2.1 Chapter 2. Badger Biology) is an important consideration, but is not overriding, and a licence may be issued to interfere with a badger sett during the breeding season. This creates a problem, since most fox control is undertaken in the winter or early spring, which is exactly when badgers are either about to give birth, or when they have very young, and hence vulnerable cubs. Once dogs are sent into a badger sett in order to bolt any foxes that might be present, it is impossible to control what they do or where they go, and if badger cubs are present the dogs are just as likely to attack them as they are any fox that is present. Thus if any of the licensing authorities licence someone to enter a dog to a badger sett during the period when young cubs may be present, it could reasonably be argued that they are countenancing cruelly-ill-treating the badgers: an activity which cannot be licensed.
It has to be said that when fox control appears essential it may be better to use the very successful technique of night shooting with lamps. Also, it should be remembered that foxes inhabiting fox earths can be legally controlled using dogs at any time of the year under present legislation.
If it is found to be essential to destroy a sett for legitimate purposes, and no way of keeping it can be found or agreed upon, then the guidelines below must be followed and be seen to be followed in order to avoid the risk of breaking the law. Also, whilst using the techniques described below to determine whether a sett is in use and to survey the area for setts does not require a licence, deterring the badgers from using, or excluding them from, a particular sett and/or trapping badgers to move them from a sett does require a licence from the relevant authority (see 3.2.6 Chapter 3. Badgers and the Law).
First you should ascertain whether the sett in question is in use. This may be obvious from new spoil at the entrances, signs of bedding being changed, fresh footprints and fresh faeces in nearby latrines. Otherwise thin sticks can be placed across entrances at dusk to check for badger activity during the night; when the badgers emerge the sticks will be pushed aside. To be sure that it is badgers doing this, sand should be smoothed on the paths to check for footprints (fig. 11), or the sett can be watched at dusk or sticky tape placed across the top of the entrance to collect hairs for later identification. Badger hairs are coarse and banded with black and grey or white (occasionally the pale sections may be stained the colour of the soil), and are not confusable with hairs of other species. Remember that in cold weather, and in December and January in particular, badgers may remain below ground for several consecutive nights. Remember also that if the sett is found to be occupied by badgers, no steps should be taken to deter them from using it without first obtaining the requisite licence.
Next it is necessary to make a thorough survey of the area to establish the territorial boundaries of the badger social groups using the area and the distribution of all the local setts (in addition to the problem one) and their status (see 2.2 Chapter 2. Badger Biology). This is to determine which, if any, are in use and to see if there is an alternative sett to which the badgers could move within their own territory. It is no good expecting them to take over a sett in the next, occupied, territory. Each group of badgers will usually have a main sett plus several subsidiary or outlying setts. There may not always be an annexe sett. Only the main sett is likely to be in continuous use, and it is threats to the main sett which pose the greatest problem. If it is an annexe, subsidiary or outlying sett which is being threatened, then it is fairly easy to persuade the badgers to abandon the threatened sett without moving off their territory. Indeed if the sett is of low status, all the new activity around the area may in itself provide the necessary persuasion to abandon it.
If a main sett is threatened, there may be problems as the badgers will be extremely reluctant to move elsewhere. The chances of success may be enhanced if there is large alternative set nearby. However, generally outlying or subsidiary setts are too small for permanent occupation by a group of badgers, and may be in a situation where it would be difficult for them to be enlarged; thus these are only useful as an alternative to the main sett if you are dealing with a small group of badgers. Also, smaller setts are often not in the sort of situations that a badger social group would dig a main sett e.g. they may lack year-round cover, they may be seasonally flooded or water-logged, or the soil or geology may not permit them to develop an extensive tunnel system. So consider these points as well before trying to persuade the badgers to move into a subsidiary or outlying sett.
When it is a main sett that is being threatened, it is likely that an artificial sett will have to be provided (see 9.4 Chapter 9. Useful Techniques), rather than just trust to luck that the badgers will take up permanent residence in a subsidiary sett within their territory. As already explained, there is usually a very good reason why a sett has a lower status. Provided that the artificial sett is well constructed and in a suitable location, it is likely to be readily adopted by the badgers, at least on temporary bas is. Many natural setts are excavated in man-made features such as railway embankments or old quarries anyway, and artificial fox earths are often taken over by badgers. When it is not possible to build a new sett within the existing territory, or too much of the territory is being lost to a development, the only resort may be to consider translocating the badgers, with all its inherent problems (see 8.5 Chapter 8. Rehabilitating Badgers).
If an artificial sett is constructed, an acclimatisation period, where the badgers are allowed to get used to the new sett in their territory before being excluded from their main sett, is desirable but obviously not always possible. Situations where acclimatisation is feasible involve setts in railway embankments or flood levees that need to be moved but do not pose an immediate threat. Forward planning will allow time for a gradual acclimatisation of the badgers to their new artificial sett. Once it is in regular use, the badgers can be progressively excluded from their old sett. Remember that trapping is not an option because there is no legal provision to take badgers for development purposes.
The time-honoured method of deterring badgers from using a sett, but which is now illegal, was that of 'stinking out'. A strong smelling substance, such as creosote, diesel oil or 'Renardine' (a commercial animal repellent) was placed in the entrance of the sett, which was then lightly closed with a turf. This was done after 23.00 hours when the badgers could be expected to be out foraging. The theory was that when the badgers returned they were (hopefully!) deterred from re-entering the sett. If any of the badgers were still inside when the deterrent was applied, the hole could be re-opened by the badgers from the inside because it was only lightly blocked. If the sett was large the entrances could be dealt with in groups and blocked in turn until only one remained to be treated. On no account should any noxious or strong smelling substances have been poured down the hole, since they may have proved unpleasant if exposed to the fur or an open cut, particularly around the face and eyes. Also, it should be said that the technique did not always work and its efficacy depended on how determined the badgers were to return to their sett. It was most successful if another sett was readily available, or the sett involved was not a main sett, whereas the chances of success with a main sett were slight when there was no alternative sett readily available.
However, the situation is now very different. Although chemicals such as creosote, diesel fuel and bone oil have been used in the past in attempts to 'stink out' badgers from setts or to exclude them from crops or gardens, all chemicals used for 'giving protection against harmful creatures' or 'rendering such creatures harmless' are now treated in the same way as pesticides and as such fall within the controls prescribed by the Food and Environment Protection Act of 1985. Essentially, this means that only chemicals tested for safety, efficacy and humaneness, and approved under the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986, can be used for the purposes specified above. Although the primary reason for wishing to use a repellent may be for badger conservation or welfare rather than a situation where the badger is considered to be a 'harmful creature', it would still be illegal to use an unapproved chemical as a repellent. Remember also that the humaneness of the repellents is taken into account during the approval process, and so their use should also prevent situations where there may be a claim that the use of the repellent could constitute 'cruel ill-treatment' of badgers.
Since 1 January 1988, users of animal repellents must comply with the conditions of approval stated on the label and use them only for the purposes for which they have been tested. Creosote and diesel oil would not be passed as animal repellents since that is not their primary use. 'Renardine', a bone oil formulation, is perhaps the most quoted badger repellent but the terms of its approval currently only permit its use against dogs, cats and rabbits. 'Rabbit Smear Liquid', another bone oil preparation, has approval for use 'for the prevention of damage by rabbits, hares etc to fruit trees and market garden crops, also for the protection of game birds from foxes, moles etc'. It would be for the courts to decide if the 'etc' covered badgers, but advice from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is that it would be prudent to avoid using it as a badger repellent.
Several professional products containing aluminium ammonium sulphate ('Narsty', 'Curb', 'Guardsman L Crop Spray', 'Liquid Curb Crop Spray' and ' Guardsman STP') have approval for use as bird and animal repellents. These are all taste repellents, and are largely odourless to humans. They were originally developed to protect crops from birds and mammals, but may also be effective in deterring badgers from digging in lawns or eating garden crops. The products 'Scoot' and 'Stay Off' , which are available from garden centres and pet shops, are also aluminium ammonium sulphate deterrents. Bulbs liable to attack by badgers can be dipped in the powder, and the powder can be mixed with water and sprayed onto lawns during periods when they are liable to be dug. One manufacturer of an aluminium ammonium sulphate deterrent also suggests that raking the powder into the soil around a carrot or potato crop may help reduce losses to badgers. If this is done, any crops should be very thoroughly washed before being eaten, and if the compound is applied directly to crops there is a six-week withholding period for fruit and four weeks for other crops. In fact there seems to be little information available to indicate whether aluminium ammonium sulphate is effective against badgers.
Finally, we must stress that if any animal repellent is used, the manufacturers' instructions relating to use and safety must be followed, and at the time of writing, the efficacy of none of the products has been tested for the purpose of deterring badgers. It would appear then that chemically deterring the use of a sett must await the development of a suitable, safe and efficacious repellent for badgers and we cannot find anything to recommend in those legally available at present.
The only other method, which can legally be used at the time of writing, and which is likely to be stipulated by the Statutory Nature Conservation Agencies in their licences, would appear to be a physical one. A strong fence (fig. 12) should be built around the sett, with badger gates positioned at intervals where the main paths from the sett intersect the fence; only two or three gates may be required. A description of these gates, originally designed by the Forestry Commission, is given by Neal (1986) - see Further Reading. These Forestry Commission gates were made of heavy wooden rectangles, preferably oak, no more than 30x18x4 centimetres in size, swinging vertically in an opening approximately 31.5x19.5 centimetres. The heavy wooden door was used to allow badgers free passage whilst still excluding rabbits. In many cases, such as when deterring badgers from using a sett, exclusion of rabbits is not a problem, and a lighter (and hence cheaper) gate can be used; a suitable design (slightly larger than that used by the Forestry Commission) is shown in fig. 13. Also, Penny Cresswell recommends a gate with a wire panel in it, as illustrated, since some badgers are reluctant to use a solid gate.
At first the fence holes are left gateless for easy access. Then gates are fitted and should be left to swing both ways, still allowing the badgers free access to and from their sett. After a few days, once you are sure that all the badgers are regularly using the gates (check with sand and/or small stones positioned against the bottom of the door), they can be easily modified so that they only open outwards, thereby allowing the badgers to leave but preventing them returning to the sett in the morning. Make sure that the gate fits snugly into its frame, since if a badger can get its claws through the gap, it will pull the gate open and return to its sett. The gates should be left in position for several days until you are sure that no badgers are left in the sett. This can be determined using sticks and sand as described in 5.7, or by watching the sett at night. Only once you are sure that no badgers remain can the sett be filled in.
When issuing a licence to deter badgers from using a particular sett, English Nature usually requires periods of one week with the gaps open before the gates are hung, one week with gates opening both ways, and two weeks with the gates opening one way only. However, this may be adapted to suit the time of year or prevailing weather conditions, and to be sure that a sett is empty in winter it may be necessary to extend the latter period to three to four weeks, because badgers are much less active and may stay below ground for long periods. The other Statutory Nature Conservation Agencies are likely to require the gates to be in position for similar periods.
Remember that a badger excluded from its sett may make very determined efforts to get back. Therefore the exclusion fence will need to be very strong and made of chain link or TWIL Group badger fencing (see 5.2.2) (not chicken wire), be dug well into the ground, at least a metre high, and with an overhang or an electric wire around the top (9.3 Chapter 9. Useful Techniques) to prevent the badgers climbing over. The badgers will find any weakness in your fence, so the job will need to be a good one, and the developer/building contractor should be able to help build the fence. After all, it is for their benefit. Also, once the sett is empty, it will need to be effectively destroyed, preferably with mechanical excavators, to stop the badgers digging back in once the exclusion fence has been removed.
A cheaper and more rapidly constructed badger exclusion fence can be employed if the sett is very small or is under a building such as a shed or summer-house; the technique is particularly useful if only one or a few badgers are in residence. This means that you should really know how many badgers are present before attempting this technique. Wait until 23.00, when the badger(s) should be out foraging, and then erect an electric fence around the sett (9.3 Chapter 9. Useful Techniques) to prevent the badger's return. However, this is a skilled operation that should be left to an expert, and if carried out clumsily is just as likely to entrap as to exclude the badgers. Whoever undertakes the work, the situation within the fence and sett will need to be monitored to see if the badger(s) had indeed gone before the hole is filled in. If it turns out that a badger is still in residence, the process will need to be repeated on a later night. However, if you are using electric fencing to exclude an animal from a sett, the three-strand fence is preferable to 'Flexinet', which has the potential to entangle an animal, and this may be a problem if the animal is under stress and determined to try to return to its sett.
Some people have successfully excluded badgers from setts by placing one-way gates directly over each entrance hole. While this does work, some badgers may be deterred from coming out and so stay underground for an extended period. Also, it is difficult to be sure that all the badgers have left, since you cannot use the stick and sand technique to monitor any badger activity.
One other means of deterring badgers from using a sett is to place objects which are designed to disturb the badgers near to all the holes. Pieces of flapping plastic on sticks have been found to be very effective under some circumstances, particularly if there are other setts nearby, and the use of flashing traffic-type lamps has also worked in similar situations. The disadvantage of flapping plastic flags is that some nights are perfectly still. For either flags or lights, they should first be placed a little way from the holes, and moved closer on subsequent nights. None of these measures should be undertaken except under expert guidance, and all will require licensing.
The Grey Squirrel (Warfarin) Order 1973 permits the use of Warfarin over much of England and Wales for grey squirrel control; there are a few specified counties where this is not permitted.
Unfortunately, this can pose a problem for badgers. The Order requires that the poison bait (0.02% Warfarin by weight on whole wheat) is presented in hoppers of specified dimensions; the most effective baiting period is from April to July each year. These hoppers are normally sited at the base of a tree (see fig. 14) but sometimes at a natural feeding site such as a tree stump. It is also recommended that the hopper is firmly secured with branchwood, heavy stones or two stakes. Operators are instructed that they should avoid sites near to badger setts.
However, problems may arise because badgers like wheat, and despite being sited away from setts and being secured, badgers may persistently disturb the hoppers, and spill and eat the contents. In such circumstances, hoppers. should be placed at least 1 metre above the ground either in the fork of a tree or on a table (fig. 14). It is important to minimise the risk to badgers (and other wildlife) which may be killed by mistake, so operators should visit hoppers regularly, remove spilled bait and relocate hoppers that are attracting badgers. Further information is supplied in the Forestry Authority's Research Information Note 180 Grey Squirrel Damage Control with Warfarin, available from the address in Chapter 11. Useful Addresses.
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