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Sett Destruction

It almost goes without saying that the destruction of a badger sett is the absolutely last resort. Everything, and we mean literally everything, should have been done before sett destruction is even contemplated. Badgers and their setts are protected because they have been persecuted for hundreds of years; and we owe it to badgers and our custodianship of the environment to do the right thing by badgers. The law, too, accepts that the destruction of a badger sett is a route of last resort; and makes the very specific provision that damage caused by badgers must be SERIOUS.

Just in case you were wondering what SERIOUS is defined as, it really boils down to expensive economic damage or serious health and safety risks (like subsidence).

If badgers come into your garden, and you don't like the thought of it, then our advice, is that you should learn to accept wildlife as a valuable part of a working garden. An occasional poo on the lawn or digging through the flowerbeds, whilst annoying, is not bad enough to warrant the extermination of a protected wild animal or the destruction of its home.

The use of noise-based scarers (sonic, or primitive scare-crow or noisy flapping windmill) in or at the sett entrance is not allowed, unless permitted by the licence. Similarly, the use of bright lights (like flood-lights) or flashing beacons at or into the sett, also breaches theThe Protection of Badgers Act 1992 unless the licence allows for this.

In order to get a sett destroyed, a licence will first need to be obtained from Natural England; and this will have required a full Badger Survey (done, for example by a Badger Consultant). It is only after the licence has been granted, that any efforts can be made to destroy the sett. Any efforts made before the date of grant of the licence, whilst the licence application was pending; or other than in the terms defined by the licence are illegal; and can give the perpetrator a criminal record, a huge fine and a jail term. If you are convicted for killing a badger or destroying a sett this can also attract the attentions of animal rights extremists.

Details of the sett destruction will be handled by a badger expert; who will take the permitted steps themselves. This may be the Badger Consultant or a local Badger Group.

You will need to remember that the badgers may have occupied the sett from which they are being excluded for several decades; and you should expect them to make some very serious and very determined efforts to get back in again. An exclusion Fence will need to be very strong and made of chain link or badger-proof fencing (not chicken wire), be dug well into the ground, at least a metre high, and with an overhang or an electric wire around the top to prevent the badgers climbing over. The badgers will find each and every weakness in the fence. Once the sett is certain to be empty, it will need to be effectively destroyed, possibly with mechanical excavators, to stop the badgers digging back in once the exclusion fence has been removed. If destruction is not acceptable, the licence may then make it possible to fill the tunnels with a solid material (such as a concrete mix or something similar).

You also need to be aware that sett destruction is an extremely emotive issue within the pro-badger community. Recent examples of sett destruction have resulted in a great deal of negative publicity and campaigning against the people trying to destroy the sett. See the case of the Saltdean Badgers for some information (16 May 2003). In the light of that situation, we would urge people to adopt a position of balanced restraint, before trying to get badgers killed or their setts destroyed.

Sett Exclusion

Badgers can be excluded from a sett only with the permission supplied within the terms of an issued badger licence. It is not legal to exclude first (and apply for a licence later); or to commence an exclusion whilst a licence application is still pending.

For permanent badger exclusion from a sett, a strong wire fence is built around the area, with badger gates positioned where the main paths intersect the fence. Gates are normally heavy wooden or steel mesh doors, up to 30x18x4 cm in size, swinging vertically in an opening approximately 31.5x19.5 cm. The heavy door is hinged at the top to allow badgers free passage whilst still excluding rabbits (which are not strong enough to bash their way through). Some people make the doors with resilient wire panels in them (such as a plasterers metal grid), as this allows a nervous badger the chance to see what is on the other side.

At first gaps are left in the fence holes for easy access. The gates are fitted and be left to swing both ways, still allowing the badgers free access to and from.

If the licence permits this, the gates may be modified so that they only open one way, allowing the badgers to go through the fence but preventing return.

One-way gates especially must fit snugly into their frames, since if a badger can get its claws through the gap, it will pull the gate open and return.

The timings for the leaving of fence gaps, installing two-way gates and converting them to one-way gates may well be specified in the licence; although the Consultant will have useful experience in badger exclusions; and may have some freedom to extend the timings in appropriate circumstances. However, there will always be a "Closed" season for badgers, which be when any dependent cubs are still underground.

"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