Badgers are social creatures living in family groups in underground structures called setts. Badgers and their setts are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. With adequate planning and effective design badgers rarely present a significant constraint to development, however there are strict controls on what can be done and when, in association with badger setts and so without prior notice or adequate project planning the presence of badgers on a development site can become a major impediment to a project.
Badgers, and in particular their setts, can also cause damage to structures, gardens and on occasion buildings. We have over 20 years experience in managing such issues and can help design solutions that resolve ongoing damage issues and if necessary remove the badger setts. We work closely with Natural England in this area and are regularly recommended for work where innovative solutions are required for to resolve damage being caused by badgers.
Our badger specialists use a combination of walkover surveys, camera traps and territory mapping to build an accurate picture of the badger population and activity. This information is used to inform impact assessments and where necessary to obtain licences from Natural England.
How we can help
When required we can carry out artificial sett construction, badger sett exclusions and sett destruction under licence from Natural England. Tom Clarkson holds a Class Licence for badger exclusions allowing licences to be quickly obtained between July and November. We also provide specialist advice on fencing and tunnel design as well as planting and management schemes.
Badger surveys can be undertaken throughout the year, however mitigation measures and sett closures must be timed to avoid vulnerable times of year when badgers have dependent young below ground. Works to badger setts (involving exclusion or works likely to result in disturbance) can generally only take place between 1st July and 30th November.
Where artificial setts are required, as is the case where the loss of a main sett is unavoidable, these structures should be constructed at least 6 months ahead of any works affecting the badger setts. Good project planning is therefore essential.
We were contacted to completed detailed badgers for a road improvement project on the A43 in Northamptonshire. At least one large badger sett was known about and the road improvements provided an opportunity to reduce the road traffic mortality rate on the A43. Tom conducted a large scale badger survey and identified a number of main badger setts within the vicinity of the scheme. A bait marking exercise was undertaken to identify the territorial boundaries and allow the likely impacts of the new road construction upon the nearby social groups and inform requirements for mitigation measures.
A detailed mitigation strategy was developed which included the provision of of badger proof fencing along an extended section of the road and the construction of a safe crossing (tunnel) for badgers beneath the road. We also completed a full exclusion of a main sett and subsequent partial destructive search with part of the sett lost beneath the road. Part of the sett was retained and reopened ensuring opportunities for badgers were maintained on the site, and importantly avoiding the need to provide an artificial sett.
At a site in Somerset we were approached by a client to complete a small exclusion on a site following a survey by another ecologist. Upon arrival on site it quickly transpired that the survey completed was inadequate and a large main sett had been overlooked. Tom and Patrick quickly set about developing a solution, including constructing a large 16 chamber artificial sett on the site and developing a strategy of a phased clearance of badger setts from the construction site over several years. The approach was developed in close consultation with specialists at Natural England.
The artificial sett was constructed in the spring of 2019 and badgers were recorded using the structure regularly during the following year. Several phases of exclusion followed, during which the artificial sett was found to be a reliable place of shelter for the species. We have been able to manage the exclusion processes to avoid any delay to construction programmes ensuring that the developer was able to progress their development on schedule.
Although the discovery of the badger sett undoubtedly was an unexpected expense by being reactive we were able to avoid badgers from holding up development.
At a site near to us in Burnham badgers have been using a main sett within the gardens of an old vicarage, now used as a residential care home for some time. Gradually the sett had been expanded and had now rendered a building in the garden, used by one of the residents, unsafe and unusable. We obtained a licence to exclude badgers from part of the sett and then carefully removed the floor of the garden room and undertook a destructive search of the badger sett, fully removing all elements of the sett where it extended beneath the structure.
We also dug a 5ft deep subterranean fence line adjacent to the building to prevent the issue from reoccurring and fitted a skirt of wire between the building and the boundary wall to prevent any reoccupation of the sett.
On sites such as this we need to develop solutions which not only resolve short term problems but also consider the long-term impacts and the welfare/conservation impacts on badgers. In this instance it was not felt that the removal of the main sett on site was necessary, nor in the interests of the badger population or the local community, into which the badger group would likely have relocated. Instead, retaining the sett on site and managing the immediate impacts and subsequently controlling badgers access to the garden was considered to be a more viable and sustainable solution.
Tom was asked to inspect a private drive in Exeter where badgers had formed a large sett adjacent to a private drive which formed the principal access road for 15 properties. The sett, several entrances of which were located immediately adjacent to the road top presented a significant hazard for road users and if further collapses occurred might have prevented residents from accessing their properties.
Consequently a strategy was developed, in consultation with Natural England to undertake a full exclusion of the sett and subsequent destructive search of the sett where it was located beneath the road. A number of very significant chambers were uncovered, often no deeper than 1ft beneath the surface. A major accident could have resulted from one of these collapsing catastrophically.
A 6ft deep trench was then dug along side the road and a heavy duty chain-link fence dropped into the trench to prevent badgers from digging any new tunnels or chambers beneath the road after which the exclusion measures were removed from the remainder of the badger sett.
Retaining a badger sett in situ can often be the best solution. We need to think carefully about where the damage is, what is causing it and how it can be resolved. Permanently evicting the badgers can often just move the problem onto a neighbour or be a short term fix.