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Homeless badgers sett for luxury

19 January 2007 - BBC News

A council has completed an unusual re-housing project for a large family - of badgers.

The animals had been developing their sett under the B9018 road between Keith and Cullen, but their tunnel network caused sections of the road to sink.

Badgers are protected, so a licence was required to allow emergency repairs near the live sett.

A new artificial sett was established by Moray Council as part of the 80,000 project and the badgers have moved in.

Badger excavations had seen the road surface sinking in numerous locations over a 350m stretch of road.

Temporary road surface signs were erected for safety, alongside imposing a temporary 30mph speed limit and eventually traffic lights.

A badger expert was then called in to help find a permanent solution.

Mike Harris, of Grampian Badgers Surveys, of Strichen, Aberdeenshire, provided expert advice in how to deal with the situation in an environmentally sensitive manner.

Consultations with Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Executive were needed.

The existing setts had to be demolished to allow the road repair to be carried out.

After detailed surveys, it was decided that as it was one of the main active setts in the area, demolition alone would not be acceptable.

Before any road repairs could commence an alternative home nearby had to be provided for the badgers and a location for a new artificial sett was established.

The new badger estate involved building the artificial sett from clay pipes leading to a number of block built chambers with plywood and slabbed roofs over two storeys.

The setts were furnished with straw bedding and made waterproof.

Exclusion fences were erected around the existing sett with a series of gates which would first allow the badgers to come and go freely to explore their new homes.

After a period of time the gates were set to one-way, allowing the badgers to leave their existing home but not go back.

The existing sett was then able to be demolished and the road reconstructed.

Mesh netting was placed along the length of the embankment to stop the badgers going back to their old homes in the future.

A council spokesman said: "This was potentially a tricky situation, we had to make sure the animals were successfully excluded first time, otherwise they would have scattered elsewhere or started digging up the road again.

"We were fortunate to have the skills in-house to build the new setts, and to have expert Mike Harris on hand to give us the advice we needed.

"It may seem a lot of fuss over badgers, but they are protected by law and as an authority we will abide by the law. It is a successful, permanent solution borne from proper planning, and our roads team are to be congratulated."

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