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Gardeners

"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

The following advice is fairly general - you would probably be better to speak to your local Badger Group for specific advice about your particular situation.

What are badgers doing and Why are they doing it?

The key thing to find out is why badgers are coming into your garden. It is often because:

  • They are using it as toilet
  • They are marking their territory
  • They are feeding

The next thing is to walk round the perimeter of your garden to see where they are getting in and how this can be stopped.

Toilet

When badgers emerge in the evening, they will often head off to find a toilet to defecate. They will normally dig a series of holes in the ground (a few 10s of metres from their home) and leave their poo in those holes. The poo will normally be dark and muddy - sometimes a bit sloppy and sometimes with fruit stones and insects casings in it. It can sometimes look a bit like sloppy chocolate toothpaste; and may have a musky smell (from 3 to 4 feet away).

The way to stop badgers is to try to keep them out of the garden (by using fencing, for example); and to dig up and remove the offending poo and surrounding soil every time it reappears. Some people spray the new ground with strong smelling natural substances (such as Citronella) to try and mask the residual smell of badger poo, urine and musk.

Suitable fencing is another option, that we will come to that later on.

Territorial Marking

Badgers live in family groups (clans) are "own" a territory. If badgers from another territory encroach, there is a risk that badgers will fight to defend their land (or their females). The borders of adjoining territories may be "marked" by badgers of each clan - this warns the other badgers not to proceed any further (unless they want a fight).

This marking may consist of things you can not see (urine and badger musk), as well as badger poo, which may be left on badger paths close to the boundary. You may be fortunate to identify one lot of badger poo near a physical boundary (such as a garden wall or fence) with some more poo on the other side. It may well be that the barrier defines the boundary of two badger territories.

The easiest way to deal with this is to ignore it. Do you really need to USE every bit of land right up to the barrier?

Otherwise, you can disguise it - for example by planting some fast-growing low shrubs; so the badgers simple "go" behind the shrubs out of sight.

Otherwise, digging up the offending material is worth a try; as is using Citronella on the offending ground. However, the badgers may be marking in that precise spot to "match" neighbouring badgers; so you may be better to treat both side of the barrier in the same way.

Suitable fencing is another option, that we will come to that later on.

Badgers Feeding

It is normal for badgers to have a large territory, that they patrol every night. Unless you have an unusually good food source for badgers, it is likely they WILL be feeding in several other areas on their nightly patrols. It may be that your garden simply gives better feeding opportunities than your neighbours gardens. Or, it could be that they come into your garden to snack on their way to or from a neighbour who provides them with food. The best method is usually to try a holistic approach; to work out what lands the badgers are accessing; to see if they can be distracted into certain safe areas or fenced out of other areas. It is better to do this as a community; rather than a single house with no knowledge of local badgers or their habits.

Of course, badgers main food source is earth-worms, and they can cause some problems digging up lawns as they try to get the worms. Evidence of this is usually provided in the form of round or elliptical snuffle-holes, where the badger has pushed it's snout down into the ground so it can pull up the juicy worm (without the worm snapping in two).

As well as worms, badgers will also eat a variety of insects - many of which are deemed to be pests by gardeners. Eating these insects pests may provide gardeners with a real benefit (fewer wasps, grubs and slugs, for example), but badgers can sometimes cause damage getting to some of these pests. It can be annoying to see lawns dug up by badgers, as they forage after pests which live in the roots of the turf. These insect larva often go unnoticed by gardeners when they exists in low numbers. As the numbers of lawn pests increase this can have the double disadvantage of causing damage to the roots of the lawn (weakening the structure of the lawn turf); and being an enhanced food resource for the badgers. The hungry badgers are then attracted to the pests, which they find easy to get hold of because the pests have weakened the lawn. The solution here is to try to improve the quality of the lawn non-bone-meal fertiliser, raking out moss and repairing damaged sections. It is worth thinking about using eco-friendly non-poisonous ways to reduce the insect load in the lawn too.

In dry summers, the amount of digging done by badgers may increase if they really need to eat wet food (like earthworms), Putting out fresh clean  Water (not Milk) can help the badgers feel less de-hydrated, which can mean they cause less garden damage in the hot summer months.

As well as worms, badgers can also eat garden pests - including leather jackets, slugs, snails, wasps nests, various grubs etc.

Food Crops

If you grow "food" in your garden, badgers will be attracted to it too. Moist fruit is good for badgers in hot weather; and almost any food is good in the autumn, when they need to pile on weight to see them through the winter. As well as the food you grow for your own human needs (strawberries, blackberries, plums, apples, grapes, sweetcorn, various vegetables, etc); badgers will also eat other wild fruits and berries that you would not eat. They will eat various grains and even yew berries (poisonous to humans), for example.

Windfall fruit is another seasonal risk with badgers. They will be able to smell the ripening fruit from a long way off; and they will know that a lot of fruit will end up on the ground. It is a surprise to many people how much fruit a badger can eat in the autumn. That said, if they are eating windfall fruit, this may give them enough food to act as so-called distraction-feeding. This means they eat a decent meal and leave, before they have the incentive to go digging up lawns and damaging flower/vegetable beds looking for other food.

Flower Bulbs

Badgers also love to eat some bulbs, roots and tubers - if determined they may well end up ripping up whole areas of flower bulbs too.

Chemical Warfare

There is no chemical which can be legally used as a badger deterrent; so using ANY chemical means you are at some risk of committing an offence under the pesticide regulations or under wildlife protection laws. However, some people have tried using so-called taste deterrents to deter birds and animals from feeding on certain crops at key times. If these are used on flower bulbs, they may deter them from being eaten; and, as they are not human food crops, there is little risk to humans.

Some people have claimed success by treating cloth strips with Citronella, Olbas Oil and Ralgex and hanging those strips around the perimeter of problem areas. The idea being that the pungent smell deters the sensitive nose of many nocturnal animals. You need to refresh the scent periodically and after heavy rain; and it is worth experimenting with different scents if one doesn't seem to work or if the animals you are trying to deter get used to it.

Electronic Gadgets

A variety of companies sell these ultrasonic alarms, which sound a high-pitched sound when they are triggered by the movement of an animal. They are said to work on animals which can hear high-pitch sounds; but they can not be heard by humans. As a new object which appears in a garden, they may appear to work against badgers for a while, but badgers often seem to get used to them, or put up with the annoyance of they are hungry enough.

That said, some key wildlife organisations have endorsed their usefulness to deter animals such as cats; so they may have a use in certain situations. We remain unconvinced as to their effectiveness to deter badgers.

Badgers Feeding from Your Bird Tables and Bins

Badgers will try and eat most things they find. Peanuts are a real delicacy for badgers; and they will be attracted to gardens with bird feeders; as nuts will always fall on to the ground. Badgers may even be able to reach up to bird nuts, fat balls and bird baths.

Accordingly, if you feed the birds, a side effect may be encouraging other wildlife too (badgers, foxes and squirrels). Cutting down on the quantity of nuts on the ground may help deter badgers.

Keeping bins securely closed with locks or extra-strong bungee cords will tend to deter badgers from getting in to eat food waste. Be aware that badgers can easily overturn normal waste bins, so the lid needs to stay secure, even if the bin gets toppled over.

Wheelie bins are normally better at keeping badgers out as they are taller; but a determined badger may be able to pull a wheelie bin over if it can climb up onto the top.

Grassland

If you cut your lawns short, this simply means that badgers find it easier to locate the worms on the surface. Leaving the grass to grow longer (i.e. several inches), may mean worms are more difficult to find, so badgers don't end up doing as much damage (though your garden may look less formal than it did before).

Toleration

Tolerating badgers visiting your garden is an option for some gardeners - especially if you can get used to not minding when they dig up your lawns to get at the worms! After all, the badger doesn't know your garden it meant to be neat and tidy - it just sees it any another extension of its habitat.

Change things around

Other options include the use of things to "spook" the badgers away.

Being very cautious animals, badgers can be deterred by unusual things or changes to their surroundings. A sudden change (like a security light or a house light coming on) can spook some badgers. A door or a window being opened or closed can do the trick too.

The sight of an obvious human or dog-like shape may help - so a scarecrow with a noisy flapping nylon cape may help deter badgers - especially if you can move it around or swap it with other scarecrows on nearby allotments.

The smell of a human or a dog may put a badger off too - so shuffling your feet (or the dogs feet) around the badger access points in a garden may put of a badger for a few hours.

Other unusual sounds (like wind-charms or noisy-plastic toy windmills or a bunch of old shiny CDs hung up to make a clattering noise) can help for a while too. Other people have tried using highly-reflective aluminized plastic strips on posts; as they flap about in the breeze and create strange reflections patterns from security lights, which may spook badgers for a little while.

A badger which gets take fright will typically stay away for half an hour or more; so having a variety of deterrents may help, if it gets used to one thing not being scary any more.

However, badgers can overcome some of their fears - especially if the food is good enough. Accordingly, make sure dustbin lids are very securely fastened; and smelly food scraps bagged up deep inside the bin. A badger has a sense of smell hundreds of times better than a human; and last nights curry remnants will smell fantastic to a badger, even if they are inside a plastic bin.

Remember too that a badger will be able to overturn a bin if it can get a paw or its nose underneath it!

Making things tricky for badgers

Be aware that badgers are creatures of habit and can be very determined to keep to those habits. The longer a badger has been following a habit; the more difficult it will be to get it to stop. The choice you have to make is how much effort you want to put in to exclude badgers.

Using temporary sticks or picket-type fencing to protect key plants or small areas of important crops is worth a try at first. Gardeners will be familiar with plastic tubes used around young saplings to protect them from being eaten by rabbits. Creating a series of fences using temporary wooden barriers is worth a try until you can find a better long-term solution.

Remember that badgers have claws on their front feet and their back feet. Front claws up to 25mm long mean that can use their immense strength to get through weak points in fences, plastic sheeting and rotten wood if they want to. You are better to use too much protection rather than too little when it comes to badgers.

Protecting Raised Beds, Decking and Sheds from Digging

http://www.khaleejdubai.com/images/scan0046.jpgIf badgers are digging up bulbs frequently or getting into raised beds or large urns, some people have suggested using a thick wire grid (weldmesh) to prevent digging.

Here you get a sheet of weldmesh and cut it to size to fit into the raised bed; and fit it just beneath the soil surface.

Now the vegetation will grow through the grid, but the badgers can not dig through it. This does allow you to grow flowers and crops such as potatoes; as the stiff weldmesh can be removed at harvest time.

The same method can be adapted to keep larger animals out if you have a gap under sheds and decking.

Almost goes without saying that this is a potentially costly solution which is normally used for small areas only.

Large Lawn Areas

http://i03.i.aliimg.com/img/pb/665/705/236/1268126366269_hz_fileserver1_575725.jpgFor larger areas, you can prevent badgers digging deep holes by covering the area with tennis-court-type wire netting which is fixed a couple of inches below the lawn surface.

Again the lawn grows through the mesh very well and this is very useful to stop badgers digging under sheds, foundations and buildings. It is a solution used by Badger Consultants who need to protect railway embankments and flood defences against burrowing by badgers, foxes and rabbits.

Again, this is not cheap, but it is a highly effective method to protect areas of vital importance.

Fencing

You can protect gardens with tall secure fencing, or by arranging an "assault course" of sticks to deter badgers from making the trip to key sections you want to protect.

http://www.jpk.ie/db/Gallery/Gallery/Welded-Mesh-Gallery/JPK-Sports-Weldmesh-3.3.18.JPGThe first thing to do is a detailed walk around your garden to see where the badger might be getting in. Holes in hedgerows, fences and walls are commonly used by badgers. Even small holes can be expanded by badgers with an hour or so of effort.

Plugging holes is the best place to start. If they are digging under fences, try setting a concrete paving slab in a trench under the fence to stop them digging under at that point.

Otherwise, having established that it is safe to do so (i.e. no gas or water pipes, drains or cables), drive some long stout sticks vertically into the ground to block any tunnelling attempts at weak points along the boundary. Start with 3cm diameter wooden poles or 4mm diameter metal rods, set a few cm apart.

If you can't dig into the ground, securing tennis-court-type wire netting on the ground (and to the fence) may be enough to prevent badgers getting through holes in fences.

You can also protect your best garden areas with unclimbable walls and/or very stout fences and wiring.

A badger can climb roughly-built walls, so make sure it can not gain any footholds or claw holds to get over the top. A badger can also climb a wire fence in a somewhat ungainly fashion, so you will need to make sure it is pretty tall (i.e. at least one metre) and has no obvious holds; or ways around, through or under.

The really tricky solutions are where you have gardens which are open plan, with no barriers between neighbours. In these circumstances, the best way forward is to club together as a community and get a recognised badger expert to visit and survey the area so they can advise what can be done. The people to contact here are:

  • Your local Badger Group.
  • Or, in the case of extensive damage or commercial interests, a Badger Consultant.
  • The other fencing option is to use an Electric Fence of a type specifically designed and installed to deter badgers.  Most gardeners do not even want to entertain the idea of an electric fence, but they are very effective. Please see the Fencing page for more details.

Protection and Licensing

Badgers remain a protected species, and you can not do anything to cause them actual harm (even if they do wreck your nice garden).

If badgers cause a serious problem, it is sometimes possible to get the badgers moved to another area. However, this requires a licence from the authorities, and good proof of subsidence or serious economic harm. Wrecking a garden is probably not counted as serious harm - unless you are running a commercial garden or the badgers digging is causing subsidence or other structural damage.

If you have a serious problem and you are willing to spend the money on exploring whether badgers could be moved, you need to speak to your local Badger Group or a Badger Consultant; with your chequebook at the ready.

Renardine

Remember that badger deterrence can no longer be done with the chemical repellent called Renardine. See also our Chemical Deterrence page.
Legal Notice regarding the banning of Renardine:
Renardine was the only legally permitted chemical deterrent which was effective against badgers. As from the 24th March 2005, Renardine has been banned. Importantly, ALL the approvals for Renardine have now expired. This means that:

* Renardine can no longer be advertised for sale.

* Renardine can not be bought from any shop, wholesaler, mail order, agricultural supplies merchants, internet or by private sale.

* Renardine may no longer be supplied, sold, given away or swapped.

* Renardine may no longer by used.

* Renardine may no longer be stored (so any stocks you have must be disposed of).

RenCoco ( Renardine-impregnated cocoa shells) has also been banned.

For more information see the PSD's web site at http://www.pesticides.gov.uk/approvals.asp?id=1567