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Trainspotting badgers wreak havoc

Isle of Wight News - December 1997

Note:- Please read this article, then read the follow up article to see just how well MAFF really did!

Train buffs at one of Britain's most popular steam railway lines have been forced to tackle a problem far worse than leaves on the line ....... a whole honeycomb of badger setts have sprung up under their tracks!

Now, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture have been called in to advise the steam enthusiasts at Havenstreet, Isle of Wight on how best to relocate the four-legged trainspotters.

Commercial director of the five-mile line, Jim Loe, said the sets were found in a section of embankment over which trains carrying tens of thousands of tourists chug each year.

The steam railway is now having to spend an undisclosed amount on repairs to the embankment to make it 100 percent safe.

Mr Loe said: "The erosion of the embankment was getting so bad we had to investigate. When we saw the size of the holes we knew it was badgers underneath. "We called in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for advice, but when we saw the extent of damage the badgers had done it was remarkable - there seemed to be a honeycomb of sets right the way under the track that went on for about 50ft!"

Mr Loe said the Ministry advised the railway to continue repair work while under its supervision and the badgers gradually moved out from under the track to a new site half-a-mile down the line. "We received advice from the Ministry concerning the safety of the badgers and they confirmed it would be okay to proceed with the repair work. Luckily they decided not to build their new sets under another section of track but moved to a bank in a cutting further down the line."

The extensive repairs took a total of five days to complete, and in order to ensure the badgers were not trapped in under the track, the Ministry designed special one-way trapdoors which let the badgers get out but not back in.

"We were concerned over the welfare of the animals so the Ministry gave us the idea of the trapdoors which we constructed specially for the job - after all one of the reasons why people ride on the trains is the vast array of wildlife we have in the area," said Mr Loe.

The badger, a protected species, is common-place on the Island with the local badger protection group estimating a resident population of 1,500 of the nocturnal mammals.

The Island's badgers have become specially protected after the local council introduced an English Nature-backed scheme earlier this year which ensured the location of all known sets are kept secret.

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