Archive for the ‘badger fences’ Category

A badger is coming through my catflap…

Wednesday, 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…

Saturday, 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

Badger Mitigation Works

Saturday, 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.