Badger Surveys

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  • Badger Surveys © Arbeco Ltd.
  • Nightime badger activity © Arbeco Ltd.
  • Nightime badger activity © Arbeco Ltd.

Background

Badgers, Meles meles, live in small social groups within a territory that usually contains a network of tunnels and chambers where the badgers live, known as a sett. Badger colonies often use several setts; a large main sett and one or two outlier setts.

Setts are usually located on sloping ground, but they can also be found in less obvious places such as the edges or arable fields, disused pipes and even under buildings. The boundary of a badgers’ territory is marked by latrines (a small excavation in which the badgers deposit their dung).

Badgers and their setts are protected by law making it illegal to kill, injure or take badgers or to interfere with a badger sett. A site may be affected by badger legislation even if there is not a sett located directly on it. It is considered an offence to reduce badger foraging habitats, obstructing access to a sett or using heavy machinery within 30m of a sett. 

Survey

Badger surveys can be undertaken at any time of year, however, there is an optimum badger survey time which is late winter/early spring. Surveys involve looking for sett entrances, mammal pathways, latrines, badger hairs, scratching posts and evidence of foraging.

Bait-marking surveys are used if a development is likely to affect a badger’s territory or their setts. This technique measures the loss of specific territories and informs a suitable mitigation approach.

Bait-marking surveys involve feeding badgers food containing coloured plastic pellets which pass harmlessly through the badger’s digestive tract and show up in their dung, enabling surveyors to tell which latrine belongs to which social group. This type of survey is also useful for mapping the territories of badger social groups, as different coloured pellets can be fed to several social groups.

  • Badger latrine Badger latrine © Arbeco Ltd.
  • © Arbeco Ltd.
  • © Arbeco Ltd.

Mitigation

Planning permission may be refused if badgers are present on site unless it can be demonstrated that badgers will be adequately protected during development, that disturbance will be kept to a minimum and, if necessary, that a suitable alternative habitat will be provided to sustain the existing population.

Mitigation measures include specially designed badger fencing, preventing setts from being destroyed during construction works. This fencing can prevent disruption to normal badger behaviour.

Where a proposed development cannot be designed to accommodate an occupied sett and its associated foraging habitat, then the badgers must be excluded to protect them from harm.

This is done under licence issued by the relevant governing body (Natural England, the Countryside Council for Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, or the National Parks and Wildlife Service (RoI)), and cannot be applied for until planning permission has been granted.

The exclusion process may take up to three weeks and, only once the licence holder is confident that all the badgers have departed, can the sett be carefully excavated. Licenses are not normally granted to permit exclusion and sett destruction during the period 1st December to 30th June, when the animals are breeding.

Where a main sett is involved, the badgers may be difficult to exclude and the license will require construction of an artificial sett in mitigation.

Contact us to discuss your site and requirements in more detail.

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