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RSPB Spotlight on Badgers book
James Lowen explores the lives of badgers and their communal living, feeding habits and threats to their conservation. Click here to buy:
Paperback edition
Kindle edition

Badgers and their setts are fully protected under The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 which means that the setts can't be dug up, trampled on, trees felled, poisoned, smoked-out or any other harmful activity.

However, there are other risks to badgers - the main ones including traffic accidents, persecution and habitat loss. Illness and disease kills a few badgers too, but not very many considering the high proportion killed on the roads before their first birthday.

Badger setts are places where the badger dig their homes, so they need to be safe and secure, but free of flooding; and with an adequate flow of air through for good non-draughty ventilation. The area around the sett should therefore be covered in deciduous trees and shrubs - ideally ones which allow some ground cover; and provide windfall fruits or nuts in the autumn. The ground should be pretty much undisturbed - except by badgers, who will use it to expand a tunnel or too, and dig an occasional dung pit or latrine.

The soil should be well-drained, but not too sandy or too much clay; and ideally the woodland should be on a slope (as this helps with drainage). If there is one entrance to the sett low down, and one higher up, this can act as a sort of "chimney" which pulls fresh air through the sett.

Within a few tens of metres of the sett should be an area of loose long grass or leaves - so the badgers have a source of bedding material to keep their sett nice and clean.

Immediately around the tunnels entrances should, ideally, be hidden or concealed by prickly bushes (like brambles) or trees (like hawthorn or holly). Prickly branches aren't a great obstacle to badgers, but they can act as a strong deterrent to prevent inquisitive children or large dogs from disturbing the badgers. They can also help reduce the chances of the sett being found by badger baiters, who may want to dig the sett up for the badgers.

As their main food source is earthworms, accessible grassland should be within a few tens of metres too. This might be a golf course or pastureland, football fields or even domestic lawns and gardens (especially useful if the gardens are required to remain as open, or unfenced as on many modern housing estates). Ideally too there should be an occasional small stream or fresh-water spring; and at least some "vermin" species like rabbits or mice, perhaps with the occasional wasp's nest.

Roads and railways are very dangerous places for badgers, so should be protected with safe crossing points, like Badger Tunnels; or even Wildlife Bridges. Your local Badger Group should know more about these in your locality.

"The world of badgers is in some ways analogous with the human world. Like us, their behaviour is greatly influenced by their need for homes and living space, and being social like we are, they too have their problems of learning how to live together ..... and with us"
Ernest Neal

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