SES - Southern Ecological Solutions

Badger Surveys

Southern Ecological Solutions (SES) has a wealth of experienced ecologists that have conducted badger surveys followed when required by successful mitigation schemes that meet its client’s ecological obligations and commercial needs in a cost effective and pragmatic way.

SES also has a specialist in house implementation team with expert ecological training allowing them to carry out works on sensitive sites. With experience in installing one-way badger fencing systems, badger gates, creation of artificial badger setts (various sizes) and working under ecological method statements.

To discuss your requirements please Contact us or call on 01268 711021.

The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 consolidates and strengthens previous legislation for the protection of badgers Meles meles in addition to the requirements outlined in chapter 11: Conserving and enhancing the natural environment, of the Nation Planning Policy Framework. As such your site might be affected by Badger legislation even if there is not a badger sett on your site. Despite the legislation a full badger survey might not be necessary.

Typically a walkover survey would be conducted during a preliminary ecological survey by an SES ecologist, which would determine the suitability of the site for badgers and whether a more detailed survey is necessary.

UK Badger Habitat and Ecology

Adult badgers can grow up to a metre long and males can weigh up to 14 kg. They have strong claws and legs which they dig and move earth. Badgers are omnivorous with a diet that typically includes worms, insects, grain and fruits. During late summer and autumn they accumulate fat reserves for the winter months however they do not hibernate but are much less active and spend most of their time below ground.

Badgers can be found throughout the UK and have an estimated population of 300,000 animals living in around 50,000 clans or social groups. Badger clans/social groups consist of related mature and young adults and cubs. A clan’s territory consists of feeding grounds and one or more setts.

Badgers are mainly nocturnal mammals, with clans of badgers using a network of setts for daytime cover and breeding purposes; a variety of sett types exist and are characterised below however these strict classifications will vary in the ‘field’.

Main Setts: Usually have large number of holes with a well ‘worn’ appearance with trails to and from the sett. Main setts are used all year round and are preferred breeding sites.

Annexe Setts: always close to main sett connected by well-worn paths; contain several holes and may also be used as breeding site but may not be in use all year round.

Subsidiary Setts: Few holes and further away from main sett, they are not in continuously use.

Outlying Setts: Small normally situated on the edge of clans territory with few holes used sporadically.

Opening up new setts and maintaining old setts is a constant occupation with badger clans preferring to excavate setts in woodland and hedgerows although badgers can be found in a variety of habitats if the soil is easy to dig. Main setts are usually found on the boarders of woodland and grassland habitat as both cover and foraging habitat are near. Badgers mate throughout the year but pregnancy starts around the end of November; with only the dominant sow within the clan producing cubs usually 2 or 3 per litter.

Legal status and Protection of Badgers

Badgers have historically been given legal protection since 1973 however The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 consolidated and strengthened previous legislation. It is a criminal offence:

  • To willfully kill, injure, or take any Badger;
  • Possess or cruelly ill-treat a badger;
  • Posses any dead badger or part of one;
  • Posses or control a living, healthy Badger;
  • Intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to a sett, or disturb a Badger whilst it is occupying a sett.

The maximum fine per offence is £5000; the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW) amendment contains a provision for a custodial sentence of up to 6 months instead of, or in addition to, a fine. Along with a lengthy development delay until an appropriate mitigation programme has been agreed and completed.

Local authority planning departments should also meet the requirements of the chapter 11: Conserving and enhancing the natural environment, of the Nation Planning Policy Framework; which requires planners to not only protect biodiversity, but where possible to enhance it. Planning authorities are required to take into account protected species so a detailed ecological survey is normally required.

Please note your site may be affected by Badger legislation even if there is not a sett on your site. This is because using heavy machinery within 30m of a sett, substantially reducing their foraging habitat or obstructing access to a sett could be considered interference with a badger sett and hence illegal.

Badger Survey Recruitments

A walkover survey would be conducted during a preliminary ecological assessment by an SES ecologist, which would determine the suitability of the site for badgers and whether a more detailed survey is necessary. If required, Badger surveys should be undertaken within 1km from the periphery of the proposed development area.

The optimum time to survey for field signs is between February to April and October; surveys can take place outside these time frames but field signs are less abundant and less obvious. The best time to survey for badger setts is in the winter, when vegetation has died back.

The survey area will include fence lines, woodland and scrub habitats looking for the following field signs:

– Faeces; badgers deposit faeces in excavated pits.
– Setts.
– Paths between setts or leading to feeding areas.
– Scratching posts at the base of tree trunks.
– Snuffle holes (small scrapes where badgers have searched for insects, earthworms and plant tubers).
– Day nests (bundles of grass and other vegetation where badgers may sleep above ground).
– Hair traces.
– Footprints.

SES ecologists will record activity levels and abundance of field signs correlating data into a detailed report which will assess the potential impact of development on a badger social group(s) and will suggest mitigation where appropriate.

Bait marking surveys are very useful for establishing the limits of badger clan territories; therefore bait marking is often essential where initial surveys indicate that 2 or more main setts are located within 1km of a proposed development area. Bait marking can also be used to determine sett status and the extent of foraging habitat.

Field based studies are often supplemented by desk studies to gain an insight into badger activity over a longer time frame.

Badger Mitigation

SES ecologists have experience in planning and implementing licensed badger mitigation projects. SES ecologists work in a cost effective pragmatic fashion and will, from our ecological survey data, advise if a client’s works can be tailored to avoid the need for a Natural England mitigation licence, and therefore any unnecessary delays. However if potential works cannot avoid disturbing badgers whilst occupying a sett a licence can be applied for to permit works such as:

– Using heavy machinery within 30 metres of any entrance to active sett;
– Using lighter machinery, particularly for digging operations, within 20 metres;
– Light works i.e. hand digging or scrub clearance within 10 metres.

In order to grant a licence, Natural England requires detailed information, including information on the status, location and use of any setts that will be affected by the works; planning information; proposals for mitigation measures, such as sett exclusion and artificial sett construction where necessary; and dates when work will be carried out. Licensing and mitigation measures often take several months to complete and should be planned well in advance.