Badgers: A Brief Life History
Badgers are highly social mammals that are a member of the weasel family. They live together in family groups or clans that typically range between 6-8 individuals, but can be as many as thirty-five. They are primarily nocturnal, emerging from their setts — a complex network of tunnels and chambers — at dusk or after dark in search of prey. Setts tend to be built on a slope, with woodland or thickets on the perimeter of farmland being the preferred habitat in Britain, however other vegetation types, as well as other natural – and even manmade environments may be used too.
While badgers do not hibernate, they become less active during the winter months between November and February, remaining in their setts in a state of torpor when it is extremely cold and/or snowy. When in torpor, badgers will lie low in the warmth of their sett, often for weeks at a time, living off fat reserves they accumulated during the warmer months.
Current Status and Why They’re Protected
While badgers are common across the United Kingdom, with the total population estimated to be around 250,000, due to animal welfare issues they are afforded legal protection by the Protection of Badgers Act, and the Wildlife and Countryside Act. As a protected species, it is not only an offence to deliberately injure, kill or capture a badger, it is also illegal to damage, destroy or disturb a badger sett without a permit to do so. Only a licensed ecologist (with the necessary permits) may interfere with an active badger sett.
How Our Badgers Surveys Work
The above legislation offers legal protection to badgers as well as their setts. Consequently, any proposed development on a site where badger setts may be present will need to conduct a walkover survey during the daytime to determine the location of the setts, and whether they are currently active or not. Our licensed ecologists can assist you with site surveys and propose mitigating measures to protect the badgers and allow your work to continue. During this survey our badger specialists will look for evidence of badger activity, such as shed guard hairs, foraging holes, badger tracks and dung; and will also identify habitat suitable for badger foraging, as well as what measures need to be undertaken to ensure the proposed development meets legal compliance. In addition we may conduct a desktop survey of available records and data for badgers in your area.
What Happens if Badgers are Present on Your Site
Should we find any active badger setts on your site that will be threatened or disturbed by the proposed development, a license issued by Natural England (or other relevant statutory body) may be required in order to disturb or close the sett/s. However, these permits will only be granted once the development has been approved by the local authority, and in the case of a sett that may be used for breeding, the license will be restricted between July—November. Considering these time limitations and the fact that license applications can take time to process, forward planning is essential. In order to be granted a license, mitigation measures will be required to limit the impact on the resident badger population. We can help draw up a mitigation strategy that may include reconstructing the sett (or constructing artificial setts) in any suitable habitat available, as well as recommending any other mitigation measures that may be appropriate to ensure the proposed development meets legal compliance.