A badger is coming through my catflap…

December 23rd, 2015

We have had a query a couple of days ago from a lady who has had a problem with a badger coming through the cat flap and eating cat food in the kitchen. Whilst we normally keep our replies confidential, we thought people might like to read a bit more about what the query was about and how we responded.

The Question:
I’m hoping you can help me with either some practical advice or the number of someone who can solve my worrying badger issue.
I’ve had a badger coming into my home for roughly 8 weeks now, via the cat flap. He’s terrified my cats and my house rabbits, completely destroyed my cat flap and rips and knocks down the barricade every night. He wasn’t aggressive at first and came in at 9pm a few times, but now he’s growling. I have 4 children in the house as well as several pets that I need to protect, and nobody will help me. The badger trust just laughed at the badger strolling into the house every night and said it was after cat food, but it’s going for the bin, not the cat food. If I remove the bin, I’m worried it’ll go for the rabbits who are in the next room, and I’m very concerned that it’ll go for my son if he disturbs it when he comes downstairs early. The badger has also created some very sharp edges on the outside frame of my door where the cat flap hole is, and as he’s squeezing in, I’m worried he’ll hurt himself if he hasn’t already. There must be someone who can come and get him, and move him to a sett where he’s safer, surely? I have 3 cats who are now so stressed by this, they’re messing in my house. My adult rabbits are so stressed that one is alerting us all night and as they’re large animals it’s not possible to move them to another room. I’m quite desperate now. I’ve got a legal obligation to protect my children and pets, but I can’t do anything to deter this badger or afford to erect a badger proof fence at the moment.

Our Answer:
Many thanks for your message about the badger and the issues you are seeing.

You can’t really criticise the Badger Trust for finding humour in a badger coming through your cat flap to eat cat food. At a different stage in your life, I suspect you’d find it pretty funny too. The newspapers are full of stories like this, and the ITV News used to have a “funnies” bit at the end where we could find a little bit of gentle entertainment in a society which seems full of awfully-depressing serious problems across the world.

Anyway, back to your badger / cat-food conundrum, here is my understanding of the situation.

Badgers are especially keen to stuff themselves to bursting in the approach to winter; as there won’t be as much food around for the next few months; and they will live on their growing fat reserves when food is scarce. This may well be a temporary problem which resolves itself in due course.

The cats have come across the badger and are now “streetwise” enough to know that the badger will eat their food no matter how unhappy they are about the situation. When they see the badger coming in through the cat flap to eat their food, they scarper. To be honest, the cats have made the right decision here. The badger is either hungry or greedy, so they may as well just get the hell out of there to leave it to eat their food in peace. There is no point them making a fight of it or having some sort or Mexican standoff, they are right to just leave the badger well alone to eat in peace. You clearly have some sensible cats.

So far as the badger is concerned, food is just food – it’s not bothered whether it is fresh cat food or old food in a bin. If the food is there, it will eat it. If there is a smell of food in a bin, it will try to get the bin open to find the food. That said, it’s been coming through the cat flap and eating the cat food for eight weeks now; so you have definitely helped it acquire a taste for cat food. Having spent eights weeks on a diet of cat food, it will be reluctant to forget it. Actually, it won’t forget it, as it will be able to smell the scent of the cat food through the cat-flap every evening when it comes to the kitchen door.

Of course, if you remove the cat food and the food waste bin from the kitchen, there will be much less reason for the badger to come inside, through the cat flap. It may take a few days before the badger stops looking, but it will probably stop eventually.

Regarding the rabbits, you say: “My adult rabbits are so stressed that one is alerting us all night and as they’re large animals it’s not possible to move them to another room”. At the risk is being intentionally flippant, you are saying that the rabbits have gotten so large they won’t even fit through a doorway? If that’s true, I suspect you have a record rabbit that Guinness might very interested in for their famous book. Realistically though, if the rabbits are in a different room, I don’t see the badger being a problem, if you close the door.

Regarding the damage to the cat flap, that is to be expected really. The badger wants to get to his food and there is a small flap in the way. As the hole is a tight squeeze, it would be better (for him) if the little flap was not there. So, he removed the flap using brute force. So far as he is concerned, this is brilliant as access is now a lot easier and he can smell the cat food from even further away. A badger has front claws which are 25mm long and they are strong enough to lift a 25kg rock; so cat flaps are not usually sold as being “badger proof”.

Sometimes people try propping up a small paving slab against the cat flap to deter animal entry and exit. This usually works pretty well for cats and foxes, but badgers are immensely strong and usually just bat them aside once they smell the cat food. The way to stop badgers getting through cat flaps is to seal them up; or move them to where the badgers can’t access them.

We do know of people who have kitchen windows which have wide outside windowsills which the cats can jump up onto. They then just leave the kitchen window ajar (on a locked window restrictor), knowing that the cats can get through, but that badgers can not jump up on to the windowsill to get through. Maybe this is an option in your case, maybe not, but it’s worth thinking about.

Incidentally, the most common why most badgers come into domestic gardens is for feeding or access to another garden where they are feeding. Windfall fruit, earthworms, insects, lawn pests, bird nuts, cat/dog food, food bins all provide good reasons for badgers to visit. Bird feeders provide great food for badgers, with the dropped nuts, seeds and bits of fat balls; so maybe you or your neighbours are making this a bit too easy for the badgers. Indeed you may even find that badgers are encouraged into local gardens if neighbours are feeding them; as they are a real privilege to watch. Badgers also provide a good tidying-up service, as they will eat carrion (i.e. dead animals) which has been killed on the local roads and carcasses of birds and small animals left by cats and foxes.

The other issue regarding the cats is they pretty much all cats to take a serious toll on the local wildlife. You will almost certainly have all manner of mice, voles, shrews and birds living near you, which your cats will cause lethal harm too. This is part and parcel of the mixture of cats and nature. Until the badger arrived, your cats probably thought they were apex predators and now they realise that they aren’t; and this may be why they aren’t as happy as they once were. It is possible the situation may be improved if the badger was not coming into the house. However, even if the badger stayed outside the house, the cats may still be worried about going outside in case they meet the badger again. That’s just the way things go sometimes. We had a cat who could not care less about a badger, and another one that was in total terror even if he just caught sight of a toy baby badger.

Importantly too, cats have their own local hierarchy. We are assuming that the cats are concerned about the badger (which they may be), but they could be equally concerned by other neighbourhood cats; especially if they could come through the open cat flap to eat the food as well. There is often much more to the complexities of feline outdoor life than many cat owners believe.

Regarding your concerns about the safety of the badger, this is great. If the cats and the badger are continuing to come through a damaged cat flap; they probably know they can do so safely. Badger fur is about 75mm long; so a few prickly bits of wood aren’t likely to be an issue for them. Therefore the issue of the safety of the badger is pretty much a non-issue for me. There seems nothing which makes the badger coming through your cat flap and eating the cat food unsafe for the badger.

Regarding the possibility of aggressive badgers. I have never heard of a single instance of a child who has come to harm by being injured by a badger. Yes, there are idiotic letters in some of the tabloids and the pro-foxhunting newspapers which claim that all manner of animals are a menace which “need” to be hunted and killed. In the real world, badgers do not harm children. There are no references in any scientific literature about children being harmed by badgers and no mention of this in any of the 170 books we have about badgers saying they are a risk to children. Of course, there have been rare but genuine instances of babies having been attacked in their cots by cats, but this does not happen in badgers.

The issue with the badger apparently growling to be aggressive is often confused when people who have a pre-set notion of aggressive badgers hear it. Badgers have very very poor eyesight, decent hearing and an extraordinary sense of smell. They make a few noises and what may be a strange chuntering sound may be misconstrued as a growl. Sometimes people say things like “it was eating the cat biscuits or the bird nuts and then it was snapping it’s jaws at me”; when what was actually happening it that it was just eating some crunchy cat biscuits or some hard bird nuts; and crunching them up noisily using the large back teeth. Just because a badger makes a noise, does not mean that it is going to mount a serious attack.

In the overwhelming majority of encounters the badger will scent, hear or see a human and run off as quickly and as fast as it can. If the badger is cornered it may misconstrue this it being attacked so it may growl in order to try to make sure it can get away from the person who has blocked their exit. If you are determined to feed your cats inside your kitchen with an open cat flap, I would advise putting the cat food near the cat flap, to minimize the risk that the badger will think that it is cornered, thereby allowing it any easy escape.

If you are concerned that some-one may open the kitchen door and see a badger there. There are two bits of advice I’d give. First take the cat flap off the door and block up the hole. Secondly, if you decide to keep the open cat flap, then rattle the door handle nice and loud, and knock on the door or shout “Hello badger” or even sound a ring tone of a Terrier barking on your phone before you carefully open the door, rather than just going running in blindly.

You have correctly hinted at (and immediately rejected) a very good solution, namely fencing. If you can erect a badger proof fence around the entire perimeter of your garden you will be able to keep the badger out. However, this needs to be sunk 18 inches into the group, be at least 4 feet high and have no gaps whatsoever. These look fine around a sports pitch, but a bit unsightly in a domestic situation. As you have said, they can be expensive to install.

The other fencing option (of using an agricultural electric fence) on a timer isn’t suitable because of the need to let the cats out at night; and the possible painful sting that it would give to any other animal or human who touched or fell on it. Such fences also kill small animals and amphibians; so they are not a harmless solution by any means and they are not maintenance free. However, they are in the low hundreds of pounds and generally effective.

Otherwise, you will need to close-up every gap in your perimeter which would allow a badger to get into your garden. This will include through hedges, fence panels, gates and driveways. It they are burrowing underneath, try setting a cheap concrete paving slab vertically as a sort of underground wall. Be sure to avoid any cables/pipework and allow for soil drainage by leaving 60mm gaps between the slabs if you use a few together.

There is another option which sometimes works in some short-term situations. If the badgers have a single entry and exit point from your garden, you might like to consider hanging up a old towel which has been soaked in human male urine. The towel needs to cover the gap so the badger gets a noseful of the scent when it tries to pass through. This can be applied covertly using a watering can or a pump-action hand spray.

You do ask a fairly common question about getting some-one to move the badger to a safer, different sett. This is a nightmare on so many different levels.

Badgers and their setts are fully protected by several laws. You can not do anything which harms or kills a badgers or causes damage or destruction to its sett (i.e. its home).

Badgers live in close-knit family-type clans; which maintain an established territory.
If you take away a nursing female in the clan, dependent cubs will starve to death.
If you take away the only female in the clan, no further cubs will be born, meaning you are effectively killing off an entire clan of badgers.
If you take away a dominant male, there may not be enough big males to maintain the territory of the clan meaning they slowly starve to death or are attacked and/or killed by neighbouring clans.
If the action of capturing a badger in a trap causes enough stress, it may cause a pregnant badger to abort any cubs.
Taking away a badger from a clan is therefore an extremely serious option which frequently results in the injury or death of other badgers. This is why such an action is generally illegal; and a serious criminal offence.

The next issue is once you have taken a badger; why don’t you just put it into another sett? Like I said, badgers are highly territorial; and badgers which are placed into a “foreign” clan (i.e. one in which they are not already known) are very likely to be attacked, injured and possibly killed. This is why such an action is also generally illegal and is also a serious criminal offence.

However, the Badgers Act does make provision for a badger sett to be closed and for a clan to be moved elsewhere if circumstances are serious enough. For example, if a badger was digging a sett into flood defences, it is likely that this would be a good reason to get them moved. Likewise if a badger sett was causing subsidence to a road or a railway or a vitally important building, this too would be good enough. However, as I understand it, the sett is not on your land; so the sett itself is not causing you a problem. The damage being done by the badgers is not causing subsidence to your home or damage to strategically import roads, railways, cables, pipelines or waterways. The financial problem you are having is the loss of a cat flap and a loss of cat food (with some unquantifiable level of stress to some domestic pets). Although this is serious to you, it is an order of magnitude too trivial to warrant the closure of a sett. Therefore there would be no point you spending any money on this option, as the likelihood of a successful application would be next to zero. If you obtained a badger licence, the total costs for you would probably be in the range £5K to £20K. There has never been any government funding for this; so the costs would be wholly down to you.

A couple of other things worth thinking about include deterrent products. There are many pesticide chemical deterrents (Citronella, Silent Roar, etc) but none have been approved for badgers. The ones which are designed to deter cats from messing in other peoples gardens work OK for cats, but there is no evidence they work long term for badgers. Likewise soaking old towels in male urine, Ralgex spray, Olbas oil may work short term, but long term is unproven. Scattering bramble stems and prickly Holly leaves won’t deter badgers long term as they often choose to live in these environments.
Sonic deterrents may work for a while against badgers, but this is probably only because it is a “new” object in the garden. In your case, they may deter your own cats and rabbits more than they would deter any badger with a cat food habit.

I think the way forward for you; would be close the cat flap altogether. Yes, you will need to let the cats in and out yourself, but at least you won’t be in fear of this (or any other badgers in the clan) coming into the kitchen any more.

Otherwise you will need to make a detailed patrol round the garden and very securely close up every gap the badger could get through. That should help, unless the badger just digs underneath or climbs over; or if you have open gates/driveways. You may have to do this a few times if the badger(s) keep opening up new gaps.

Also, have a diplomatic word with any neighbours to see if they have seen any evidence of badgers or foxes; and see if they are feeding them at all. If they are putting out food so they can watch wildlife, this may be what is encouraging the badger to come into the gardens; and it may be why your badger is not as shy of people as it might otherwise be. Being brutal though, for every person who hates the idea of badgers or foxes in their garden, there are probably two or three times that number who would love to encourage them. On a personal level, I would never stop feeding birds, badgers or any species, just because a neighbour (whoever wonderful) didn’t like the idea.

Or, in close conjunction with your neighbours you could try so-called distraction feeding. This is where you place wet cat food or wet dog food in an area away from troublesome pets where the badgers can get a decent feed. The idea here is that the badger(s) wander about and get a decent feed so they don’t feel forced into coming into kitchens and so on. You need to monitor this carefully; as you do not want to overfeed the badgers (as you will just encourage more to come along); and uneaten food may attract species such as rats (which I guess you would not be happy about either).

I know a lot of the advice we have given will not be what you want to hear. However, we pride ourselves on giving accurate advice which gives people the options; as well as helps them understand why badgers do what they do to live their lives.

With many thanks

Simon Flory
Badger Specialist

One-way gates have been reported on a badger sett…

November 7th, 2015

We have been emailed about one-way badger gates which have been fitted to a badger sett. These may be used under licence to exclude badgers from a sett; so they can be moved into another sett. The person who contacted us was worried about the badgers; and whether they would be driven into making a sett in his own garden. Here is the text of our email reply.


Badgers live in an underground home called a sett. The sett (i.e. the land area which contains the entrance holes, the tunnels and nesting chambers) is a protected structure. This means that the sett can not be closed, damaged or interfered with in any way. The exception is where some-one has obtained a licence from Natural England to do something which would otherwise be illegal.

Given your message, I assume that a badger licence-type activity is what is happening in your locality. The likelihood is that a landowner has used a badger consultant or an ecologist (or maybe even the local badger group) to obtain a licence on their behalf. Whilst it would be polite to let immediate neighbours know of the licence application; this does not always happen. Both the granting of the licence and its terms/conditions are protected by the Data Protection Act, so that Natural England will not disclose the details to you; unless the landowner asks them to. Professional developers will be aware that the presence of badgers on a site may prevent or delay planning permission; which is a risk factor they would try to avoid. Sometimes therefore you do find developers who try to make sure that badgers (and other protected species, such as water voles, bats, etc) are moved out of the way before they apply for planning permission. Note that development does not always mean new housing; as it could include business, industry, pipelines or cables. It can also mean that the badgers are being moved because they are becoming a danger to themselves (such as by extending their sett underneath a busy road) and it is commonsense to move them before a tunnel collapse might cause a serious traffic accident.

Badger licences are normally granted because there is a genuine need to move the sett. Some-one just not liking the idea of them coming into a garden to forage for worms is not a serious enough reason – even if they cause lawn damage. The licence process is looking for a serious health and safety reason (such as building/road subsidence or digging into a flood defence) or because of a need to move the sett to allow the development to take place. There is no provision in the law to simple render the badgers homeless or to have them killed. This is why a badger licence will normally require the landowner to build a new artificial sett for the badgers nearby. The licence will then normally require that the badgers are monitored to see that they have been accessing the artificial sett. This may require night-time observations or the use of infra-red wildlife cameras. Once it is clear the artificial sett has been explored by the badgers; the process of closing down the natural sett can start. If the badgers do not seem keen on the artificial sett; they may be encouraged to use it by being fed things like wet dog food nearby.

The sett exclusion normally starts with fitting metal badger gates to the natural sett entrances and leaving them as two-way gates for a few days. Then a metal “stop” peg will be placed on the gates to make sure the badgers can emerge from the natural sett and not return. The idea is that this forces them into taking up residence in the artificial sett. Again, the badgers need to be monitored during this time; as they are likely to make extremely persistent efforts to return to their real home. It should be expected that the sett area may need to be covered with many square metres of strong tennis-court-type galvanised steel netting. Ideally this will stop them simply digging new entrance holes to get back into their home. Even if steel netting is in place, the badgers are likely to try to get underneath it or break through it where it may be joined or where it may abut fence posts or trees. In the case of an outlier sett, the badgers may give up on their natural sett after a few attempts at getting back in. Outlier setts (maybe 1 to 4 entrance holes) will not be in use by all the badgers of the clan and may be unoccupied for several months of the year. However, a main sett (maybe 6 to 50 entrances) is a different problem; as this will be the main home of the whole clan and will be in continuous occupation. In the case of very old badger setts; they may have been using the same sett for hundreds of years; so closing a main sett is often fraught with real difficulty.

Another complicating factor is that badger licences (and the work they permit) are time-limited, as described on the following page:
If you were to put one-way gates on a badger sett in the early part of the year this could cause young cubs to starve to death. If the sett was closed in December, the stress could cause female badgers to lose any unborn cubs. Therefore a sett can be closed only from the beginning of July through to the end of November. In other words, if the badgers have not been totally excluded by the last day of November; the sett-closure process needs to be abandoned and restarted again from the beginning of July in the following year. Hence, there will be a great deal of pressure at your sett to make sure the one-way gates remain intact and there is no re-entry back into the old sett over the next few weeks. In the case of commercial developments, I have known cases where security guards have been employed to make sure that one-way gates were not damaged; as this would cause a huge delay to the development.

Proof of badgers being excluded from the real sett will need to be established in one of several different ways. Firstly, infra-red cameras may be in place. Secondly, ecologists may be looking for signs of current badger activity inside the natural sett (fresh footprints, fresh dung, fresh scent marking, unbroken spider webs across entrance holes, etc). The ecologist will need to be able to show that there have been at least a certain number of consecutive days of no evidence of badgers being back in the old sett. Once he/she has the evidence, the sett will need to be closed as soon as possible. This should take place under the direction of an ecologist; and can included filling the tunnels with concrete foam or excavating it with a JCB-type digger or some combination of the two. The ecologist should be equipped with a means of catching a badger from the old sett so it can be put into the new one.

Note that the specific details of the dates, the number of consecutive days of “no badgers” and the closure methods will be given in the licence document. If he has any common-sense, the ecologist will have the licence document with him. If he were to be carrying out any unlicensed sett interference or destruction, he would be liable to arrest by the Police for damaging a badger sett or causing harm to badgers.

Of course, the issue for you; is that what will the badgers do next.
In some cases the badgers like their new home and live there quite happily. If the artificial sett has been built so they can expand it by adding their own new tunnels and chambers, this is more likely to be the case.
In others they just don’t seem to like the new sett and make ongoing efforts to return to their old sett (even if it may have been damaged or destroyed).
They may also try to expand old fox/rabbit holes or, in extreme cases, take residence under sheds or decking.
At other times, they may use the new sett for a few weeks or months and then decide to explore the area looking for a bit of sloping ground which is above the water table and try to dig their own sett in there.
It is difficult to predict without detailed knowledge of the area and how badger use the locality. We would expect the ecologist to be the best person to have this knowledge.

As for keeping badgers out of a garden, our advice on suitable fencing is on the following page:
There is a lot of advice on there, so I’ll let you read it. That said, badger-proof fencing is not really the nicest looking fencing in a domestic garden. Of course, with enough reason to come into a garden, badgers may well just wander up and down open driveways and footpaths if they are not stressed out by the noise of people or barking dogs.

Hence, it is worth inspecting the perimeter of your property to see where badgers could come through hedges or fences; as well as squeeze or tunnel under any other barriers.
Badgers can climb very well; so it is worth looking for lines of scratches on walls and fences if you suspect they may be climbing in.
Footprints and scratch marks left by badgers are shown on the following page:

If there is a risk that badgers or foxes may expand small gaps or holes to get underneath sheds or garages; it is a lot easier to fill any gaps with concrete or secure steel mesh before any animal can take residence.
Particularly, with badgers, eviction can be a lot of trouble; as an established badger sett under a garage/shed is just as protected under the law as a sett in a woodland.

It is also worth thinking about why badgers come into gardens. This is normally to get to food (earthworms on a lawn, bird nuts, windfall fruit, carrion, pet food, food waste bins or bin bags) or to gain access to another garden where they are fed. The key thing is to make sure that there is no excess bird food or other food waste; either in your own garden or left out by any neighbours who like to feed birds, badgers or foxes. The issue with windfall fruit is highly seasonal and the best way may just be to tolerate this for a few weeks. It can sometimes help if you dump windfall fruit in a non-contentious place (such as in a quiet corner of an adjacent field); as this can give badgers a decent feed and can reduce the risk of them causing lawn damage, etc. This is what is known as so-called “distraction feeding”. Note that over-feeding can just encourage more badgers to come by which can make a modest problem worse.

More generally, so far as feeding is concerned, badgers are likely to be forage in an area from anything from 20 to 200 acres. Hence, their feeding patterns are not likely to be massively disrupted by the closure of a small outlier-type sett. It is normally disruption of access to their foraging areas (grassland) due to new roads; or the loss of habitat due to housing/industrial estates that does the real damage to their ability to thrive.

Moving forward, it is probably worth having a sneaky look around any neighbours or the sett area to see if the ecologists are providing food  near the new sett, as well as to see if any wildlife cameras can be spotted. Wildlife cameras are often in a green/brown camouflage pattern and will either use invisible infra-red light or (perhaps) show a very faint red glow from any LED illumination at night. These cameras typically work duding daylight hours too; so they may record other species and human activity.

Also, could I ask that you contact the local badger group to let them know of the potential badger issues in your area.
I’m sure they would be interested to know of the badgers nearby. They may also wish to get involved if any planning applications pose a risk to badgers or their loss of green fields or other vital habitat.

With many thanks

Simon Flory
Badger Specialist

Direct Action on the Badger Cull

August 26th, 2013

A cancer at the heart of government

The issue of the politics of farming has been a long term plan for about 10,000 farmers in the upper echelons of the NFU’s 55,000 members. They have managed to sneak their way on to the DEFRA management team and into leadership positions within Natural England. These people now maintain a corrupting and cankerous core at the heart of government – recent Freedom of Information Requests show without any doubt that they have conspired with the NFU to bring in a cull of Britain’s badgers.

Mass animal killing when there is a vaccine?

The badger cull is nothing other than a mass killing of badgers which will do next to nothing to reduce bovine TB infection rates in cattle. Indeed, better testing measures and restricted measures to move potentially infected cattle are already reducing the infection rates in cattle before any badgers are shot by the NFU. Using more accurate cattle TB tests; and using the TB vaccine on high and medium risk cattle herds could make bovine TB almost a thing of the past in many cattle-farming areas of Britain. The NFU’s twisted logic of avoiding the TB vaccine is the same as saying you’d kill the first of your children who got measles, polio or diphtheria to try to stop it from infecting the others. The logic of a £10 TB vaccine, is that you can protect a badger or a valuable beef animal or a productive high-yield milker for their whole life; without the upset of either culling or financial embarrassment at Barclays. The government agreement that the NFU will be able to shoot 100,000 badgers will leave huge parts of the UK with no badgers; will make no serious difference to the 4,000 cattle which are shot under farm TB management rules and regulations.

The effective end of badger protection laws?

The NFU’s appalling and bloody massacre of thousands of healthy badgers will start very soon it seems. Of course, the Conservatives who run DEFRA seem to think their job is to pursue their own narrow-minded pro-hunt interests against the environment. We have seen numerous examples of soft-treatment of grouse-moor owners and shabby treatment of wildlife (buzzards, eagles, hen harriers, gulls, corvids, etc). The badger is a case in point. The issue with the two “trial” badger culls is NOT to cut bovine TB (as all the dead ones will be burnt before they are TB tested). The badger cull is not about science or research or learning, it is simply a new bloodsport brought in under the cover of assessing whether they can kill enough badgers over a six-week long shooting festival. Less than 1% of dead badgers will be checked to see whether they had instant humane deaths, so many badgers will die long painful inhumane deaths. If the hunter’s guns can inflict enough casualties on the protected badger populations of Somerset and Gloucestershire; they will roll out a plan across all or most of England’s counties over the next 25 years. To all intents and purposes, the badger cull signals the effective end of the various laws which protects the badger from persecution.

An e-petition sought to change the government policy on the killing of badgers. DEFRA have ignored this – the most popular such e-petition ever – arrogantly dismissing the views of nearly 270,000 UK voters, simply because 10,000 farmers want to use the badger as a scapegoat. As well, and possibly of greater importance, are the views of the top scientists from the UK and overseas. There is no peer-reviewed scientific paper which states that culling badgers will make a major impact on the reduction in TB in cattle. If you have a government which point-blank refuses to listen to every top scientist on one of the most important science-problems in animal health, you’ve got to question not just their ability to govern, but also their ability to think.

The “failed” NFU injunction

The NFU has rightly been subject to some criticism. They responded to this criticism so “well” they went to court to try to get an injunction banning any-one from protesting in Somerset or Gloucestershire and several other counties. In effect their injunction was so watered down by the Judge in the High Court, all it really says is that badger cull protesters should not break the law as it already existed before the cull was agreed. So, if you are a lawful protestor, you have no worries from the NFU or the Police, as injunctions are not a police matter. Even if you are what some people claim might be an “unlawful” protestor, do you have genuine worries in the real world? People skilled in the arts of sabbing hunts seem to think that the badger cull protests will not be badly affected by the NFU injunction anyway. Our advice, for what it’s worth, is that the hunt sabs have the skills, experience and the legal know-how on their side. Any-one wanting to protest the badger cull in a direct action type of manner would be well advised to join the hunt sabs organisations, buy the clothing and the kit; and know what to do and what to say in what circumstances. Despite the rabid rantings of the pro-hunt animal abusers and twitter trolls; every single hunt sab we have ever met prides themselves on their non-violent stance. They do not want to meet violence with violence; they just want to see animals live their wild or domestic lives free from torture, hunting and abuse.

But how do we move forward in the protest against the badger cull?

We have done everything we can as law-abiding citizens to persuade the government to change their minds and follow the people and the science to vaccinate rather than exterminate. We have twice written to our local (twice married, but against gay marriage) MP, Craig Whitaker. His “copy and paste” idiotic response suggests he is a man who shows every sign of being outwitted by a blunt pencil. Owen Paterson, David Heath and Richard Benyon are all pro-hunt; are have all been put in place by the grouse-shooting stag-hunting fox-hunting Prime Minister. So long as Cameron is in the office; the Etonians, aristocrats and the idiotic backbench wannabes will pursue their own interests, even though 65,000,000 plebs disagree with them. Given that this government don’t listen, and we can’t afford NFU-style bribes or Monsanto-style jobs for “after politics”, all we can say is that we are done with them as voters. In exactly the same way that the Conservatives lost “Yorkshire” when they shut down their coal mines, for a generation they will lose the votes of all the people who think that wildlife is for watching not for hunting or shooting.

Dr Brian May – Brock God

We continue to be big supporters of the scientist, rock guitarist and national treasure Brian May and his campaigning for the future of badgers and farming, but the e-petition will close soon; and the government will ignore it unless the NFU sign it. Initially we thought he might be a celebrity distraction, but he has campaigned very well and shown up the NFU for what they are on every occasion they have had the balls to debate with him. Odd how the NFU don’t seem to want to debate with him any more… Brian, you are a hero for wildlife – we would hope that your work for wildlife will be seen as your best work to date.

Organics is “Dead Badger” Milk Nowadays

We continue to be big supporters of the Badger Trust, Secret World, the Badger Protection League, Save Me, the League Against Cruel Sports, the Hunt Sabs Association and their many county groups, as well as the RSPCA. As “wildlife” people we have a huge affinity with all wildlife groups and we are grateful for the full support of the many raptor-watch groups; and the quiet (if not whispering) support of the WWT and the RSPB. The one group we thought would be in favour of wildlife was the Soil Association; but they have allowed their big-business supporters to poison the organic movement, so that organic dairy milk may as well be “dead badger” milk nowadays.

Peaceful Protests?

For any-one who has not been on a protest, I would strongly recommend doing so, as you meet some great people and you can show your support for wildlife and shout out about how the government is so very badly wrong. Organisations like the Secret World, Badger Trust, Somerset Badger Patrol and others organise peaceful protests, suitable for kids and critters, young and old and everyone from the gentle grannie through to the experienced sabber. When you retire, I’m sure you’d rather have a story to tell that you did something real, rather than grumbling about it being a shame; so please be out there.

If you can’t get to the culling fields of Somerset and Gloucestershire, you can help people who can by supporting them to buy things like fuel for vehicles, torches, mobile phones and so on.

We try to list the various support funds on our web-site on this page – they do change from time to time:


Direct Action is the Answer Now

Importantly though, the bloody badger cull is now imminent, so what is needed NOW is direct action in the woodlands and fields of England to save the lives of badgers.

There are so many direct action groups now, that the NFU had to include the term “unknown persons” in their injunction to try to include them all.

One great organisation to support are the Hunt Saboteurs Association; as they celebrate 50 years of being in the fields to stop blood sports, such as fox hunting, hare coursing and badger culling. It is worth checking them out on their website and making use of their Donate button or http://hsa.enviroweb.org/index.php/about-the-hsa/hsajoin links.


It is also worth checking for your local county Hunt Sabs groups (http://hsa.enviroweb.org/index.php/get-involved/localgroups); as well as field-based events, they still need help with fund raising too. You don’t need to dress in “combats” and walk across field to help the Hunt Sabs if that’s not your “thing”.

Do be sure to check out their legal advice page though. Not that we are suggesting you might be a lawbreaker or anything, but it is as well to read about and understand why “hunt sabs” do and say the things they do and why they dress in a certain way. Essentially sabbing is predominantly a team-work activity, so it’s as well to know the rules your friends are following.

If you are focussed only on the badger cull right now, please check out the tweets from https://twitter.com/freebrocks and the webpages of http://badger-killers.co.uk/ and  https://www.facebook.com/stop.the.cull  as they are very active in the cull zones. Contrary to what the NFUs apologists say, lots of people support @freebrocks – in fact they have more supporters than the NFU do, which is kind of ironic. Following @freebrocks on twitter is good as they are good at communicating information which is both timely and accurate; and less prone to misinterpretation within the froth of false rumours placed by some trolls and hunt-supporters.

Like we have said, we believe the time for the polite politics is coming to a close; and the time for direct action to save badgers from the guns is imminent. The government will not listen; so it is up to the people of this country to go into the fields and the woodlands to rescue as many badgers from the inhumanity of the farmer’s guns as physically possible.


Following the publication of this article, we have made a £50 donation to the FreedaBrocks fuel fund, so they can get sabs and experienced activists into the badger cull zones.


We would urge everyone to take whatever direct or indirect action they feel comfortable with; even if it’s “just” a donation.

Badger Mitigation Works

September 1st, 2012

Whenever people want to undertake large building projects across our green and pleasant countryside, some-one always claims that the scheme can’t go ahead because of the presence of badgers. Sometimes this is because badgers are genuinely in residence and the development would badly affect them. At other times, and more often than not in our experience, objectors play the “badger card” to try to get the unwanted development stopped; without any real concern for our furry black and white friends. We are not against all developments in the countryside, as many provide real benefits for humankind. We do think it’s a bit rich for the nimby brigade to use badgers for their own purposes, when they’ve never been involved with helping their local badgers before though. Badgers are a keynote species that we should care for, before we think they can be used to get planning permission stopped. Anyway, that’s our daily rant done for today – we will now start to talk about what happens when you really need to consider the needs of badgers and developers – in other words, the whole tricky subject of badger mitigation.

Let’s assume the person behind the building scheme is a developer (although it could be a government department, a railway, a pipeline or a cable company or a roadbuilder).

Before the scheme can be given the legal go-ahead, the developer must be able to demonstrate that their proposals will not have a detrimental impact on badgers. This is likely to involve the implementation of appropriate mitigation measures to safeguard the animals, their setts and their foraging habitat. There is a whole host of “Best Practice” guides for what this might mean; but they are generally better to buy in the services of a badger consultant who really knows about badgers.



Assuming the sett location is not to be destroyed, one key area to examine is the loss of foraging territory for the badgers.

It may be that a significant proportion of a badger territory is to be lost to the development – this is especially bad news of it includes important feeding areas. To mitigate against the loss it may be possible to enhance the foraging value of the remaining territory to compensate for any feeding areas lost. Supplementary feeding with ‘artificial’ foodstuffs is not recommended as this leads to the badgers becoming largely dependent on humans. A better approach is to consider improving the quality of the remaining areas of grassland, through appropriate management, thereby increasing the abundance of earthworms. That said, it is both lazy and irresponsible simply to expect badgers to replace lost foraging by feeding in gardens or other amenity areas. This will only lead to animosity from neighbouring landowners, many of whom will not welcome badgers digging up their lawns, greens and flower-beds.

Road Safety

Even with the crazy government idea to kill badgers across the south west of England, more badgers still die on roads than from any other cause. Badgers can be helped to cross roads safely by purpose-built underpasses/tunnels and badger-proof fencing. These underpasses must be located on or very very close to existing badger paths. When new roads are planned, the proposed measures to protect badgers must be designed during the design stage, to allow tunnels and fencing to be integrated with drainage, cuttings and embankments. The correct positioning and specification for these structures is absolutely essential, otherwise they will be ineffective and a waste of money. They will result in badgers getting on to the roads where they will get killed; with consequent damage to motor vehicles and potential vehicle accidents. Hitting a 13kg badger at 70mph will cause serious damage to the structure of a motor vehicle; and could easily kill a motorcyclist.

Fences and Walls

Dry stone walling may be specified along new roads because it looks nicer than a fence. Such walling seems to be an ever increasing feature on new motorways and road upgrades. So far as badgers are concerned a dry-stone wall is not suitable as a badger barrier. If used, it must be designed with a suitable wire overhang to stop badgers getting over the top of the wall.

A proper badger-proof fence is better for the badgers; but you need to get your badger consultant to specify it in detail. Whilst a fencing contractor can do the manual work, the detail has to be specified by some-one with real experience of the mentality of the badger – an animal that has great strength, excellent digging skills, good climbing ability and more-or-less no road-sense.

As the entire point of the badger-proof wall or fence is to keep the badgers off the road, all the mitigation works must be in place before the new or altered road is open to traffic!

Excluding badgers & providing artificial setts

Badgers spend huge amunts of time digging and developing their main setts. They are very unwilling to leave them; and extremely keen to return given the chance. Consequently, every effort should be made to retain badger setts on the site, especially the critically important main setts. However, if the destruction of a sett is unavoidable, Natural England, the Countryside Council for Wales or Scottish Natural Heritage can licence the exclusion of badgers from the sett, followed by its immediate destruction. At a cost (to the developer) exclusion can be humanely achieved by a combination of badger-proof fencing and/or specially designed one-way gates that allow the badgers out of the sett area, but prevent their re-entry. Note that the licence has to be issued before the exclusion work begins; and the work can be done only within a few months of the year. Contact your badger consultant for more details of the closed season for this type of work.

Of course, licences to exclude badgers from main or annexe setts will normally only be issued if a suitable programme of mitigation has already been done. A licence will only be issued if there are alternative suitable setts available to the badgers, within the same territory. If other suitable setts are not available, an artificial sett must be provided, but this must be seen as the least preferred option. The site must be carefully selected and all work supervised by a badger expert. The most successful artificial setts have been located less than 100 metres from the original natural sett and constructed at least six months before the badgers are excluded. This might seem like a bureaucratic nightmare, but the rules are designed to protect badgers AND to make sure the mitigation schemes work for the long term.

Some people ask whether all this wildlife work is worthwhile. If you are a badger hater, you probably think it isn’t. However, we have worked on various badger projects in Britains woodlands and fields; and we think everyone who has worked with us sees the benefits of working with nature. We aren’t just talking about wildlife-friendly people like us, but we include several “seasoned” construction workers. Whilst they might come across as hard-working, hard-playing, hard-drinking roadmen; we are sure they are secretly proud of the badger protection work they did. They are certainly always on site whenever any badgers are being brought back in to the site. Curiously, it always seems to be the same guys with the mini-diggers who are available for the badger work; so there are many more badger fans than you might think.

If you are ever wanting to do your bit for wildlife, you could contact your local badger group, to see if they could use your skills. There are dozens of groups across the UK, why so not check out if there is one near you:


You might want to get involved in badger protection work; or you might just want to see badgers doing their natural wild animal behaviour. In any event, badgers are one of Britains keynote species who deserve to keep the legal protection they have had for several decades. Seeing them in the wild IS something you’d want to share with everyone.


Badger Culling or Vaccination to solve a disease problem in cattle?

June 8th, 2012

As far back as 2008 Professor Christl Donnelly (http://www1.imperial.ac.uk/medicine/people/c.donnelly/) published an artle about the effects of culling or vaccinating badgers and how this might affect the levels of bovine TB infections in cattle.The article appeared in the Journal of Applied Ecology – a peer-reviewed scientific journal. For those of you who might like to read it in full, you can get all the detail from : http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01556.x/abstract

A summary of the article suggests two important things:

  •  culling badgers causes them to alter their social structure and their ranging behaviour, with the risk that there could be new or additional contacts between badgers and cattle, potentially increasing TB infection rates. In other words, the perturbation hypothesis, as to why culling badgers can make bovine TB worse in cattle.
  • vaccinating badgers so they do not get bovine TB infections (from cattle or other species), does not disturb their social hierarchy or their ranging behaviour. In other words, vaccinating badgers reduces the density of infectious badgers, without affecting their behaviour.

So far as we are concerned, given a choice between either culling or vaccinating, the choice should be to vaccinate; as this improves the situation for badgers; and reduces the risks for cattle. There is also the benefit, that there is less TB in the environment to affect other wildlife species. In these troubled times, there will be much less need for a visible police presence in the badger killing areas; as most animal rights extremists would not be getting involved in violence to stop a vaccination scheme. Likewise peaceful protesters may be more inclined to buy from farms and businesses in cull areas; rather than boycotting them.

Anyway, coming back to the report, Professor Donnelly is some-one who has an awesome knowledge of both badgers AND in the transmission of infectious diseases. She was also a key member of the panel which managed the science surrounding the RBCT (aka the £50 million Krebs badger killing experiment). And, she is a Professor at Imperial College – one of the world’s leading scientific institutions. She is undoutedly one of the key people whose opinions and advice should be sought, listened to and relied upon by policy makers. Just to remind everyone, the whole RBCT TEAM stated that culling badgers is NOT effective in controlling bovine TB in cattle.

Coming up towards the end of June 2012, is a court case, in which the Badger Trust are seeking judicial review of DEFRAs decision to cull badgers across wide areas of England. The Badger Trust say the three stooges who run DEFRA  (farmer Caroline Spelman, farmer Jim Paice and farmer Richard Benyon), have got the science wrong. The NFU (National Farmers Union) seem to be getting sick and tired of DEFRA not removing the Protection of Badgers Act; and want to kill badgers using any excuse they can come up with. Of course, killing 25,000 cattle every year due to the policy details surrounding bovine TB, is a disaster for them and for farm incomes; and for hard-done-to taxpayers who compensate farmers and agri-businesses who keep finding themselves with bTB infections. But, 250,000 cattle die before they should, due to other preventable conditions, such as BVD, lameness and so on. Bovine TB is bad for a farmer, and it’s not the only disease they farmers should be worried about; but it the only one they can scapegoat badgers for.

The NFU are clearly so worried that farmers will not want to get involved in killing thousands of badgers that they have already said they will effectively bankroll the badger culling campaign. They are clearly worried that their “agents” in DEFRA will lose the court case on the grounds that it is not economic or that the non-peer-reviewed NFU “science” will not hold up to critical review.

Indeed, Peter Kendall, president of the NFU has already been doing the rounds slagging off “so called experts with PhD’s” – don’t know whether he thinking of Professor Donnelly or Dr Brian May or some-one else. No matter, Professor Donnelly has been called as a witness at the court case; where she could be asked about whether badger culling will do the things the NFU want or whether a badger cull will make no real difference. We can’t yet know the detail what she will be asked, or what she will reply, or indeed whether the judge will have enough of a scientific background to be able to understand the science and hopefully come to the conclusion that vaccination would always be better than culling.

What does seem likely is that Professor Donnelly has the potential to be a key scientific witness; whose influence on the outcome of the case will be immense. As for Peter Kendall, he has been so obsessed with killing badgers, he refuses to think about any Plan B. If the NFU “lose”, the NFU should metaphorically do to him what they want to do to badgers. In our view, he is the latest of the NFU leaders to fail their members. If DEFRA lose, the only way forward for the three farmers who are currently running the show has to be a swift and decisive return to back benches; where they would have ample time to contemplate how they have all continued to let down enviromentalists, farmers and all of us who are involved in some small way in rural affairs.

It’s going to be an interesting court case, that’s for sure…

Overmedicated, Dirty Water, Undertested (and Very Well Cooked)?

May 26th, 2012

Mark Purdey TB Parasitic Worm Over-Medication Hypothesis

Back as far as 2005, Mark Purdey (from Elworthy near Taunton in Somerset farming country) formulated the hypothesis that the routine over-usage of a veterinary medicine called levamisole to treat episodes of parasitic worm infections in cattle reduced the animals ability to use its immune system to defend itself against the bovine TB infection.

When cattle become infected with the bovine TB infection, their mammalian biosystem expresses an iron binding exocrine protein, lactoferrin, which scavenges and competes for free iron, thereby starving the parasite of its vital iron supply. In other words, their natural immune system tries to starve the parasite of iron, which effectively kills the parasite

Mark Purdy’s hypothesis stated that the use of this routine use of this medication, significantly affected the production of iron-based molecules, which caused a large reduction in the animal’s main line of defence against a TB infection. This was combined with the belief that dairy cattle are ingesting increasing amounts of iron in their diet.

For further details, please see http://www.badgerland.co.uk/education/journals/tuberculosis/anto_lactoferrin_toxicity.html

Parasitic Worm Causes Failure to Detect Bovine TB in Dairy Cattle

Here we are in 2012 and we find another scientific journal publishing another paper which shows that cattle infected with fasiola hepatica (i.e. a parasitic worm infection) is strongly associated with the failure to detect bovine TB infections in cattle. See http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v3/n5/full/ncomms1840.html

This large scale study (involving 3026 dairy herds) showed that there is a significant negative association between exposure to the fasciola hepatica parasite; and the ability of the intradermal comparative cervical tuberculin test used to diagnose bTB. The papers shows that cattle exposed to the parasite are between 27% and 38% less likely to provide an accurate TB test result.

Badgerland’s Thoughts

Perhaps it’s just me thinking on simplistic lines, but giving cattle lots of CLEAN water to drink and avoiding over-medicating them, might be a very good way to stop them getting parasitic worm infections, which might make it more likely they provide an accurate TB test result (allowing TB-infected animals to be culled out of the herds before they infect other animals).

In the meantime, might I suggest that beefeaters might like to choose meat from organically raised cattle which tend to have less need for medication and less intensively used water supplies.

Oh – and I want my steak cooked Very Very Well Done…

Want to see badgers near to you?

August 9th, 2010

Today’s blog talks about one of the key questions we are often asked on www.badgerland.co.uk, namely: How can we get some badgers to come and live near us?

Over the past few days, I have been in email contact with a friend of mine who works in the badger business – or more accurately – for an excellent badger charity. For want of a better nickname, let’s call my friend “Secret Andy”. Over the years, I have done a bit of work with Secret Andy – helping to move a family of badgers from under a road and a house to a safer location in a new nearby woodland. I also worked with Secret Andy on a badger release project in the North of England. When I say “worked together”, I really mean he did 99% of the work and I did 99% of the write-up for a newsletter report!

Secret Andy has a dream job, which involves caring for baby badgers at one of the world’s most important badger rescue centres; assembling them into perfect new families, and finding them homes in the wild. However, like any dream job it is not a job for the fearful or the faint-hearted.

Often the badgers that come into Secret Andy’s care are orphaned cubs, whose mothers have been killed in road traffic accidents in the first few weeks and months of the year. The biggest killer of badgers in the UK is the motor vehicle; and this takes a huge toll on the badger population. Every year baby cubs, yearlings and adults are mown down on the roads and railways – perhaps as many as 50,000 badgers die on the roads every year. Although every accident has a victim, the worst tragedy of all is when a nursing mother (called a sow) is killed. Her young cubs, still dependent on her milk will remain in or near their sett waiting and crying patiently for her non-return. Over a number of days, they will become ever hungrier and more dehydrated; and increasingly at risk of predation by foxes and terriers which have been slipped off the lead by the small proportion of dog-owners who are classed as dim-witted.

In some cases, older badger cubs may be seen at or near the entrance to the sett, where they may be observed by keen badger watchers and perhaps even rescued if they know a dead nursing sow has been found recently. Cubs only a few weeks old will remain underground – their eyes still not open and their little legs still not strong enough to emerge from their underground birthplace and into the hands of a potential rescuer. Far far too many badgers cubs die underground in this way. It is amazing that so many orphaned badger cubs are rescued every year; and that so many find themselves placed into the care provided by Secret Andy and his many co-workers and volunteers.

Once at the rescue centre, the little orphans are assessed for their state of health and fed and watered – sometimes as often as every hour – by a band of dedicated and increasingly tired workers and volunteers. Badger cubs are very cute little critters and every-one who comes into close contact with one soon becomes very attached to them. The cubs are assessed in terms of whereabouts in the country they came from and their ages, sizes and sexes; and placed into new families. The idea is that the badgers can be raised as a proper family unit which can be released back into the freedom of the countryside as a family unit; and ideally into the same county that they came from. Over the space of several weeks, the badger cubs get used to their human carers and their new families and generally do well in the rescue centre.

The next stage for the badger cubs is that they need to be removed from the company of their human carers so they can become wild again. Of course, when they are on the hourly feeds; the cubs do get used to human company and close contact. However, this is a bad idea for release-badgers as their cousins who have always lived in the wild remain very wary of humans – often with very good reason. At the rescue centre, the badgers are placed into special pens where they can be observed and fed remotely, but they do not generally see humans except in the most unusual circumstances. I guess you could see this as “tough love”, but it’s probably an awful lot tougher on the human carers than the badgers.

Being a world-class badger rescue centre, the badgers are treated according to a detailed agreed protocol. This procotol means that the badgers are assessed for their state of health at various points in their lives to make sure that they remain as healthly viable animals. Although you might want to do ALL you can to treat an animal; living in the wild is a tough job and you have a responsibility to make sure that every animal can make the grade. Sadly a few animals are too poorly to be in with a fighting chance in the wild and not all survive.

The other key test when working with badgers which are to be released into the countryside is the issue of bovine tuberculosis (i.e. the form of TB which cattle spread to one another, to other animals and, potentially, any-one who is reckless enough to still drink unpasteurised cows milk). Many people are unsure of the relationship between the bovine TB you get in cows and the bovine TB you then get in badgers, deer, cats, rats, mice, moles, earthworms, llamas, goats and people. Some of the people who are unsure as to how bovine TB works work for DEFRA – some of the others work for the National Farmers Union (NFU) and some are still Ministers in the Welsh Assembly Government (though God knows why after the debacle over the Welsh badger cull in Wales). Let’s just none of these confused people end up working in the NHS!

Anyway, back to the care and the science and the responsibility of Secret Andy at the badger rescue centre. ALL their badgers are tested to see whether they are carrying the bovine TB infection. This isn’t the sort of crappy cheap-as-chips unreliable test that the government uses too infrequently on too few cows; this is a proper scientific test which is both expensive and highly-accurate. If the test shows that the badger has or even might have the TB infection it is put to sleep and a post-mortem done and various bits of the animal’s tissue cultured to see if the poor badger actually had TB. Needless to say, although a very small % of badgers do show that they have been exposed to TB by the test, virtually none actually have TB in reality in their bodies. A few weeks later, the badgers are tested again to see if they have picked up the TB. And, a few weeks after that, the badgers are tested once more. At each stage, any badger which shows an undesirable result is put to sleep, post mortemed and cultured. Virtually no badgers have TB on post mortem or on culture. Full Stop. So there we have it, badgers released according to the badger procol are tested THREE times to make sure that they do not carry the bovine TB infection. Badgers which are released according to the badger protocol, do not have bovine (cattle) TB. The suggestion that they do is put about by certain members and spin-doctors associated with the No Flaming Use brigade. They should be ashamed they have to lie to what they think is clearly a gullible public.

Importantly, though, there is relatively new development known as the badger vaccine. This is based on the BCG vaccine that protected much of the human world from TB, but it has now been adapted for badgers. Seems to be a brilliant idea on the face of it and well worth pursuing. Given the choice of a low-speed injection with a needle and high-speed injection with a hunting rifle, I know which one I’d choose. Badgers which have already passed the three high-tech bovine TB tests are now being given the badger vaccine as yet another safeguard against the flow of the TB infection around wildlife and the environment.

As an aside, I sometimes have a strange dream where I wonder whether any-one might have thought of inventing some sort of vaccine which farmers could give to their cattle to stop them getting the bovine TB infection and therefore stop passing their bovine TB to other cattle and other species! Clever scientists have won Nobel prizes for work like this! Businessmen have even won houses and yachts in Monaco for similar work!

Back in the real world , if all this work with the badgers seems like hard work it is; although it must count as one of the most rewarding jobs in the world when things go right.

The next part of the operation seems like the easy bit – take the nearly-grown-up family of badgers into the countryside and release them! If it were only that simple!!

A bit like the residents of Royston Vasey, badgers, as a species, remain in a very small very local area throughout all their lives – they are not wide-ranging like deer or cattle trucks for example. Partly because badgers remain within a mile or so of where they were born, badger clans (families) are highly territorial. In other words, they have their own main underground home (called a sett) and an area around it which they will defend with great vigour. The very last thing that a clan of badgers wants is another clan being released into their home area. If this were to happen, the badgers would fight for dominance which could result in serious injuries and even deaths. Eventually, the weakest surviving badgers would be driven away by the stronger ones; but only after a huge amount of suffering.

For this reason, when new badger familes are released; they usually go into an area of countryside which provides them with food, shelter and safety; and is a decent distance away from other badger clans. One of the really, really difficult bits of Secret Andy’s job is finding these vital areas. You might find, for example, that there are loads of suitable badger foods and there are some great woodlands for them to shelter and make their homes in, but the site is too near where badger baiters operate or it’s too near a busy road. The problem of finding suitable release sites for new badger families is an annual problem. With every new summer/autumn there are several new badger familes which NEED a home in the countryside so they can live their natural wild lives. With every successful release of a new family; there is the immense joy, pride and delight on the part of the badgers rescuers of another family returned to the wild. And, there is the thought, that we now need to find another great badger release site to replace the one that has just been used.

Actually a great deal of work goes into finding suitable badger release sites. Secret Andy does a lot of the surveying work and the detailed suitability assessment; but much of this is in close collaboration with badger groups and other animal rescue organisations.  The landowner is the key contact, as he or she needs to give their permission. After that neighbours may be asked for their opinions and whether they might want to get involved. Overall though, the process is very much a colloborative one with people working together with patience and understanding, and in a few cases gentle pursuasion.

Having been involved in one of these badger releases, I can say that this was more interesting, fulfilling and rewarding than anything else I did that year. I can heartily recomend any-one to get involved in work like this- it will certainly be a damn sight more interesting than going to another set of lectures or boring business meetings or wasting money on frippery in the shopping centre or whatever.

As a landowner or a long-term tenant, you don’t necessarily need to own a massive area of land – if you have a few acres/hectares in which a temporary straw-bale or a permanent artificial badger sett could be built that might be enough – especially if surrounding areas provide a good habitat for badgers in terms of shelter, food and safety. Landowners are increasingly seeing themselves not just as owners of the land but as custodians of the wildlife and the ecology of the land.

Of course, in contacting Secret Andy at the badger rescue centre you are embarking on a dual process of hope and discovery. It may be that, at this precise moment, the circumstances are not right or the environment around you is not rich enough in terms of woodlands, fields and biodiversity; but the environment is a long-term thing. Getting the ball rolling in the right direction is something you can start now, even if it is a year or two before everything falls into place. It’s certainly worth making a phone call as you have nothing to lose and a new badger family has everything to gain. If you or a neighbour might be interested in seeing badgers on your land, I would urge you to contact Secret Andy to see how you can help one another to help Britain’s badgrs live their wild lives.

You can contact Andy at Secret World on 01278 783250.

Simon Flory

Badger Specialist

DEFRA want my help!

July 29th, 2010

This week I have been in the very fortunate position of being able to work from home. So there I was in the middle of a whole lot of complex IT development work for an important client, when the Badgerland phone (01422 846 846) rings.

Very well spoken young lady on the other end of the phone wants some advice about dealing with badgers in gardens.

To cut a long story short, an old lady is living in her own home and badgers are coming into her garden and causing quite a lot of damage. She’s upset because they are coming in from outside and she really loves her garden and she wants the badgers to stop making such a mess. The badgers are actually living in their sett which is on neighbouring land – the neighbour being the local council. Of course, the old lady is a bit infirm and, as she’s living only on the state pension, she can’t afford to be spending any money on expensive ways to try and solve the problem.

Badgers and their underground homes are protected by law. You can’t get rid of them if you don’t like them or don’t care for what they are doing. The local council don’t have a problem with the badgers living on their land. Quite rightly, the council are not responsible for the actions of wild animals – especially when they are as well protected by the law as badgers are.

There is a proper procedure to deal with major badger-related problems – this involves getting a commercial badger consultant or your local badger group to apply for a so-called Badger Licence from Natural England, which would give the legal authority to move the badgers to a new home which you have built for them (at your expense). The procedure costs both time and money; and there are periods of the year when you can do nothing to the badger sett – this is to make sure that any cubs can be born and weaned without disturbance. The Badger Licence procedure has traditionally been used for problems which are serious, rather than just trivial, upsetting or, for want of a better word, cosmetic. The procedure is there to make sure that there is enough “justification” to destroy a protected badger sett. It is there to deal with important things such as the case of a real risk to health and safety, such as badgers digging into a railway embankment or a flood defence or a corner of the house falling off. Bog-standard garden damage is not serious enough, so, correctly in our view, the Badger Licence procedure does not apply here.

Apart from moving house and leaving the badger issue as a delightful surprise for the new owners, there are a couple of ways to think about coming to an amicable solution.

First solution, and without doubt the cheapest one, is to get used to the badgers and their friendly little ways. Of course, making sure there are no food scraps in the garden might help; as the badgers will have less reason to come into the property. Like many wild animals, badgers don’t go round the countryside as tourists with the aim of wanton destruction. They do travel around for food and what people politely used to call “a bit of how’s your father”? If badgers have nothing to eat in your garden, that’s one less reason why they will want to come on to your lawns and flowerbeds.

The second way to keep badgers out, is with the use of badger-proof fencing.  These come in two types: permanent and temporary.

  • Permanent fence: As prolific diggers, you need to sink the fence deep underground to stop them burrowing underneath. As accomplished climbers, you will need to make the fence good and tall (at least 4 feet); and so they can’t get a grip with their strong claws. Some animal rescue centres confine their rescue badgers with a fence with an horizontal overhang – a bit like you’d see surrounding a military base, but without the CCTV cameras. Erecting the fence is a considerable undertaking – both in terms if time, labour and expense. No doubt the mess made by the builders would add to the stress of an already-worried pensioner too.
  •  Temporary fence: these are good to exclude badgers for a few weeks or months. Hence their use around food crops in fields and on allotments; and golf courses when the Tiger is in town. More than 99% effective at keeping out badgers, foxes, rabbits and dogs; the main problem comes in the name – yes – it’s the dreaded “electric” fence. Yes, they are unsightly in a domestic garden and they can harm or kill small creatures such as frogs. But, you can buy these for a few hundred pounds from farm suppliers; and the saleshuman will probably know some-one who can help out with the installation too. You can even run them through a manual on/off switch or a timer so you can keep your garden pain-free for pets and any favoured children during the daylight hours.

There did used to be a special chemical (called Renardine) which was very good at excluding badgers from a treated area. However, this was made completely illegal by the European parliament as it was made from ground up cattle bones. If you ever got a whiff of the oily brown stuff, you’d think it was made from something much worse than that (think “BP oil spill” and you are getting close).

So, here we are; an old lady with no money to put up a fence to keep badgers out of her garden asks for advice. It sound like she’s been contacting various people already, and she eventually settled on speaking to the DEFRA helpline. For any-one who has been living outside the known universe for a number of decades, DEFRA (and its predecessor government called MAFF) have been conducting the most appallingly blinkered badger-hating campaign since the late 1960s. Any reason to blame the badger, and DEFRA are there. Bovine Tuberculosis in cattle – that must be badgers who do that, is the DEFRA mindset. Never mind that the cattle skin test for bovine TB is less accurate than an MPs expense claim. It’s more important that you can blame an innocent scrapegoat rather than assess the science and see that the cheapest TB tests are hardly worth doing in cattle which might have been exposed to TB from their fellow bovines.

In case you hadn’t guessed already, the polite nicely-spoken young lady we were speaking too was from the DEFRA helpline.

They wondered if there was any advice or help we could give to the old lady. Methinks we’ve been in contact with her already – we are happy to give free advice about badgers and we are pretty sure we did so a week or two back. We try to help where we can, but some people don’t like to hear what the law is and then don’t agree with it anyway. Cest la’vie !In her circumstances we suggested she might like to contact her local badger group who would be able to see if there is a problem with badgers in the area around her garden. We also suggested she might like to ask the council to share the cost of the new fence which would be on their shared boundary – possibly sharing with the neighbours too.

Coming back the the DEFRA hepline, they were keen to know if we were aware of any-one who was able to pay for the old lady to have a new fence around her property. Errrr – no we weren’t..

They wanted to know whether we would be able to fund a project like this. Errrr – I know the government is skint, but asking private citizens to bail out other private citizens is a bit much…

Then Defra (a government department with a budget of billions and a staff of 10s of thousands and a call centre full of underemployed Media Studies graduates) asked the killer question! If they had any badger queries in future, could they give their callers our Badgerland phone number? Not bloody likely (unless they are offering a 7-figure Lottery grant)!!

If people want to contact us, they’ve a better chance by emailing us on ask@badgerland.co.uk

With kind regards

Simon Flory 

Badger Specialist

Badger Baiting Evidence man beaten up!

July 26th, 2010

The BBC are reporting the worrying news that a Northern Ireland man has been very badly beaten up because he passed information about their badger baiting activities to the authorities. See the following BBC news story for more details:


As a badger specialist, I’m acutely aware of the risks getting involved monitoring badger baiting activities and being seen to report this to the Police and others. Badger baiters are some of the most violent criminal scum in the country – many of whom has criminal records for violence. Importantly, such violence is not always limited to violence against other gang members or people who “grass them up”. Some badger baiters have convictions for family-related violence against wives and girlfriends; so they are not nice people to live or work with either.

If you are involved in wildlife protection or monitoring, it’s worth taking some time to think about what the risks are if you monitor badger setts, birds nests and the habitats of other protected species. Of course, you might have a fall or a trip; so you need to tell someone where you are going and when you are due back so they know to get help if you don’t get back at the agreed time. But, what about the electronic trail many people leave on social/networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Think about it for a minute! If a badger baiter or an egg collector went to prison because of the evidence you gave, could they find you? What information can they find out by looking you up on Twitter or Facebook? Can they find out your home address or where you work? Can they find out what you look like or what car you drive or where your children live? Are you being a bit “careless” with your Facebook privacy settings. As a test, try Googling yourself to see what a badger baiter could find out about you – it might be a lot more than you realise!

The good news about monitoring badger baiters is that there is now some VERY sophisticated technology available which can get reliable evidence without the need to risk human involvement. It is possible to use soil samples to prove that a badger digger was at a specific crime scene. It is possible to show that a single animal hair in his van or 4*4 comes from a badger and that the badger lived in the sett which was dug. Most importantly, modern CCTV cameras are so tiny they can be concealed to make them totally invisible. They record excellent quality audio and daylight/night-vision video; and beam the information via a wireless link to a computer using internet technology.

In past years, badger baiters have been able to rely on crimes going undetected in the remote country areas. Modern technology is becoming cheaper to install and more reliable; which makes it more likely that badger baiters will be caught and convicted. They need to remember that you can’t intimidate a covert CCTV camera or a forensics lab not to give evidence against you!

Simon Flory

Badger Specialist