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Badgers and the Control of Foxes

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:
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Remember that foxes will sometimes co-habit or shelter in badger setts, and this may cause problems to gamekeepers and farmers intent on fox control.

The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 allows that licences can be granted for fox control in and around badger setts. As with other licences to interfere with badger setts, they are issued only for a specific sett.

Before an application can be considered, licence applicants need to state the location of the sett, provide evidence that serious economic damage is being caused by foxes or will occur if a licence is not issued, and show that all other methods of fox control are ineffective or impractical. Each case will then be judged on its merits.

The breeding season for badgers is a very important consideration (as there may be helpless young badgers cubs still underground), but is not overriding, and in extreme cases a licence may be issued to interfere with a badger sett during the breeding season.

This creates an enormous problem, since most fox control is undertaken in the winter or early spring, which is exactly when badgers are either about to give birth, or when they have very young vulnerable cubs.

If dogs are sent into a badger sett to try to bolt any foxes that might be present, it is impossible to control what they do or where they go. If badgers are present the dogs are just as likely to attack them as they are any fox that is present.

If someone puts a dog into a badger sett, they are cruelly-ill-treating badgers as well as the dog: an activity which is in 100% breach of the The Protection of Badgers Act 1992. Importantly, the act of putting a dog into a badger sett is not one that can be licensed to make it allowable. Accordingly, if fox control is done, we recommend that it is done outside those periods when badger cubs or young badgers may be around; and that the use of dogs avoided as much as humanely possible.

It has to be said that when fox control appears essential it may be better for an experienced marksman to use the relatively "successful" and humane techniques of cage-trapping or night-shooting with lamps.

If farmers wish to use non-lethal methods, then they can, of course, consider methods such as Fencing (to keep foxes out) or electric fences (at least 99% effective, once a fox has had a "sting" to the nose). As from the 24th March 2005, Renardine is no longer licensed.

When people chase foxes through the countryside on horseback with a pack of dogs, there is a harmful tradition that badger setts will be blocked up with soft straw, leaves or twigs; as these tunnels will prevent the fox escaping from the dogs. In theory, hunters and their lackeys do not use brute force or massive stones to block badger setts (although in practice this does happen). However, as master-builders, badgers have a keen sense of architecture and may have fine-tuned their sett to provide good draught-free ventilation. If one hole is blocked, this can severely limit the fresh air-flow posing a suffocation risk to badgers. We would prefer it if badger setts were not blocked, but if they are, then care should be taken to maintain sufficient airflow through the sett - perhaps by covering the hole with a criss-cross of small twigs, rather than a plug of dense materials.

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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