Badgers are fluffy and adorable creatures and one of the most elusive mammals which inhabit the British countryside. Badgers conservation is a source of conflict between land owners such as farmers to foresters. Badgers are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act (1992), meaning that they cannot be killed, injured or displaced without a licence.
Despite this protection, criminal activity that harms badgers still occurs frequently in the British countryside. It can be hard to prosecute those who are responsible for the death or injury of a badger as there is often very little evidence available.
Badgers suffer horrendous injuries from badger baiting when they are chased out of their setts to fight dogs, known as Badger baiting. Badgers setts are also destroyed due to illegal or unlicensed development or agricultural operations. Badgers also are often victims of road kill. Five badgers are thought to be killed by a car in Scotland every day, which is over 2000 a year. (Figures from Scottish Badgers, 2017).
What is being done to stop criminal activities against Badgers? Authorities are cracking down on badger baiting and successful convictions lead to jail sentences and harsh fines. Path ways underneath major road developments are being built to reduce badgers being killed on roads. Volunteer surveys are being carried out regularly to map setts throughout the country to provide more information about sett locations, sizes and activity. Anyone can get involved to help Badgers and promote the conservation efforts.
What are the signs that volunteers should look out for when they are searching for a Badger sett?
The first sign is the entrance to the sett;
- Wide D shape entrance around 30cm wide and 20cm high.
- A large spoil heap of dirt and other properties removed from the sett. The spoil heap may be covered in large rocks or discarded bedding material.
- There may also be obvious paths leading to and away from the sett.
- Badger hairs can be found around the entrance, often black fading into white. They have a iconic oval shape and do not roll easily between your fingers.
- There may also be other entrances adjacent to the main entrance.
Signs outside of the sett
- Foraging – there may be disregarded food such as berries or small mammals. Badgers burrow with their snouts for earth worms which create nooks in grass and mud.
- There may also be scratch marks or paw prints. All the toes point forward and Badgers have an iconic kidney shaped sole print.
- Pathways can wear down moss and bark on trees on the Badger path.
- Trees may have scratch marks where the badgers sharpen their claws.
Anyone can learn to recognise Badger sett and help fight the rates of Badger crimes.