How to resolve conflicts between badgers and development schemes

Property and Construction October 06, 2020

Today (6 October) is National Badger Day! Celebrate by hearing from Richard (Dez) Delahay, a director of RSK Biocensus and a professor of wildlife biology at the University of Exeter, who provides a fascinating insight into these interesting critters and how we can resolve conflicts between badgers and development schemes.

With their distinctive black-and-white appearance, badgers in the UK are instantly recognisable and relatively abundant, although not many people have seen one. This is no surprise, as badgers are mostly nocturnal and spend most of the day in their underground setts. These dwellings can range in size from a single hole to a complex labyrinth of underground chambers and tunnels. Badgers are incredible architects and prodigious engineers, designing and maintaining their setts to be cosy and well ventilated but avoiding drafts and flooding!

Setts are usually located under cover, for example, in hedgerows or woodland, but you can also find them out in the open in the middle of fields. They also like to dig under human structures, which can bring them into conflict with people. In these situations, and when their setts are present on land destined for development, the right expertise is required to find effective solutions that work for badgers and people. Enter RSK Biocensus, which helps a range of clients to manage all manner of badger-related issues.

In RSK’s First Thursday Club webinar that aired on 3 September, Dez drew on his many years of experience studying badgers, managing them and helping a range of clients to deal with their presence on development sites. Dez began with an introduction to badger ecology and behaviour, including their diet, social organisation and the different types of setts they build. He then moved on to discuss the various survey techniques that RSK Biocensus uses to gain an understanding of where they are and what they are doing. These include searching for field signs, bait marking, a method for mapping badger group territories and identifying connections between setts, and camera surveillance.

“If a client finds what looks like a badger sett on-site, the best thing to do is contact us immediately so that we can conduct the surveys necessary to collect as much contextual information as possible,” says Dez. “This will inform whether the developer may be able to work around the badgers or if any setts need to be closed and where those excluded badgers might go.” 

He continued, “Any sett exclusions will need to be conducted under licence with a clear plan for providing alternative residence for the animals, whether that is in other naturally occurring setts or in a bespoke artificial sett constructed within easy reach. But there are seasonal constraints on when this can be done and badgers may need time to move to their new home, so it is important to plan ahead.”

Dez’s five golden rules for dealing with badgers on development sites are

  1. Information is power: Get as much contextual survey information as possible.
  2. Ask, “is there another way?” Can you accommodate the existing badger sett in the scheme? This will often be easier and cheaper than the alternative.
  3. Never underestimate badgers’ stubbornness and perseverance! Cover all the bases!
  4. Timing is everything: Give yourself enough time and be aware of the seasonal constraints.
  5. Get advice early on.

You can watch Dez’s webinar in full below.

RSK Biocensus can conduct surveys and provide mitigation, compensation and licensing advice for badgers on development sites. For more information, please contact Richard (Dez) Delahay.