Badgers are generally common and widespread throughout the British Isles, with recent surveys estimating that there are around 250000 adult badgers in mainland Britain, most of these being in rural areas. In addition, they are also known to be present in 208 towns nationwide. Rural badgers typically have a territory size of 25 hectares or more, containing different habitat types, water and shelter, whereas urban territories tend to be much smaller. The size of territory can vary depending on food abundance and population density, and territories of up to 150 hectares have been recorded. Their main food source is earthworms, but this must be augmented by fruit, carrion, agricultural crops and occasionally live meat. Badgers live in underground complexes known as setts. These are made up of chambers connected by tunnels and can be identified by the presence of several large holes and spoil heaps, often with discarded bedding mixed in with the soil.
The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 makes it a serious offence to kill, injure or take a badger, or to damage or interfere with a sett unless a licence is obtained from a statutory authority.
Badger surveys can be performed at any time of the year. Ecologists look for evidence of badgers in the form of their setts, latrines and pathways between setts or leading to their feeding area. Other evidence can be in the form of scratching posts, footprints, odour or hair traces caught on vegetation. Once a badger sett has been identified a detailed assessment of the surrounding land is undertaken. Territorial boundaries of the badger social group using the area are established along with the distribution of all the local setts and their current status. This may reveal an alternative sett already within their territory that the badgers could be encouraged to move to with the minimum of disturbance. If the identified sett is an annexe, subsidiary or outlying sett it is sometimes easier to persuade the badgers to leave that sett and move within their own territory to a main sett which is in continuous use.
LICENSING AND MITIGATION
A license will be required if a development is planned where badgers are present. In order for a license to be granted, it must be shown that the developer has taken sufficient steps to ensure the survival of the badgers in terms of their existing range, and at their original population level, with provision of adequate alternative habitats if setts and foraging areas are destroyed. Proposals to mitigate for developments can include:
The construction of a satisfactory mitigation programme will ensure the long-term viability of the UK badger population, while allowing reasonable and necessary development to proceed.