We are at an undisclosed location in the UK, project was the construction of a major retail village. JPR were brought in to mitigate a Badger issue that the client had. The site is an interesting location, it\’s relatively close to a town centre but also borders a nature reserve. The patch of land that was being developed had lain dormant for at least three decades and had been colonized by a group of Badgers. They had had a large set on site which has been recorded going back 30 years plus here. There is a large sett there are at least 30 entrances identified in the initial surveys. Hard to tell the exact size of the population of Badgers, but it was clearly a big group using such a large sett. JPR brought in because that sett was going to need to be closed down to facilitate the new development.
A patch of land right next to the site was identified, which is bordering an area of ancient woodlands, which is a little tricky to work with. JPR were initially brought in to construct large artificial setts to replace the one on site to be closed down. The sett we put in presented a number of challenges. First of all, location was inaccessible to vehicles. It was in a patch of very sensitive ancient woodlands and also the water table was very high, which given that Badgers live underground is quite a challenge. We were given some basic guidelines to work with but essentially design the setts that comprised 10 nesting chambers over a hundred meters of tunnel and at least 10 entrances.
To deal with the high water table, we designed the sett so that it was built on ground level. We then identified an area where we could import probably at least a hundred tonnes of soil and subsoil to go on top of that. Essentially we laid it on the ground and then built it up from there. You can see the sett that was constructed behind us and you can hear in the background with the noise. Busy construction site, one of the biggest challenges, I haven\’t constructed the new setts, it\’s then getting the Badgers to move out of the old one and colonize the new one. Once we built the new sett we set about trying to close down the old one to do this we put up at your exclusion fencing around the old set. That was about a hundred meters in perimeter fencing consists of a specific badger mesh which is dug down two feet into the floor as a big underlap on it and comes up four fits above ground.
To strengthen that we also put in electric fencing around it. That fence then has essentially what a heavy duty cat flaps, but in it one way badger gates, what we do is we identify the routes the badgers and using come in and out with the sets and on those Badger of trails we put a one way gate in the fence so that the bulges can leave the sett at night time they then find that they can\’t get back into the set. Once we think they\’ve all left. That set then undergoes a period of monitoring for three weeks after three weeks. When we think the sett is clear, we\’re then able to go in and excavate out the old set.
Which is a fascinating part of our job because how often do you get to see what the Badger are really up on the underground? We went in, it took us about three days to excavate the entire sett because it was so extensive. There must have been hundreds of meters of tunnels in there and countless nesting chambers. Once that was dug out and compacted down and with a bit of tempting, plenty of peanuts the badges were tempted into the new sets and we did get some great footage of them using it to prove it. It happened colonized, but it\’s never easy to exclude animals from a home they\’ve been using for decades and the Badger work the system. In order to stop them coming back on to these projects and stop, what would have been significant delays? You\’re very much limited by the times of the year at which you can exclude Badger from the sett. It had to be done at that time a year, or the whole development would have been pushed back at least a year, to really stop the Badgers. Coming back home, it was decided that the best thing we could do would be to remove all habitat from the satellites, which is a large site it\’s a seven-hectare site which was covered at least three hectares of that in quite ancient woodlands.
so we came in and removed three hectares of woodlands, and all the rest of the scrubby vegetation. This was all done very close to bird nesting season. So time was not on our side, but we were able to bring in significant amounts of resources to get that job completed on time. I think we completed three hectares of Woodland clearance in 10 days in the end. Following this to really stop the badgers coming back home, we then installed a kilometer and a half of badger exclusion fencing around the entire perimeter of the site.
This was no small undertaking in itself and it was not helped by the fact that coincided with the beast from the East, which made conditions very difficult. We dropped temperatures of minus 15 degrees Celsius, and we\’re working in two foot of snow which presents significant health and safety issues. Given the time pressure on the project we weren\’t able to pull off from this, but we were able to adjust our working methods, risk assessments, and the resources we were using in order to complete the projects on time and on budget.
For me personally, it\’s lovely to visit site 12 months on from this and see the set behind us, greening up and really settling down. It\’s fantastic that it is still being used by the Badgers, a very small percentage of artificial sets actually end up being colonized. So it really is a big success story for us that it\’s turned out that way. Given the location as well, it\’s right on a public footpath. We\’ve got a major railway behind us. We\’ve got a busy construction site yet tucked away quietly in this little corner is a thriving community of badgers.