Badger Mitigation Works

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.


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