Developments that are likely to significantly affect a badger groups territory (for example direct habitat loss or severance) or cannot avoid damage or destruction of an important sett are likely to require baitmarking surveys to inform mitigation. This Ecosulis Blog considers when baitmarking is necessary and outlines the process involved in completing this work, including an outline of the timing implications associated with seasonal constraints, the planning system and licensing process in respect to badgers.
General badger surveys can be undertaken at any time of year; however, surveys are generally most effective in spring when vegetation tends to be least dense. A general badger survey entails surveying a site for evidence of badger such as setts, tracks, latrines and guard hairs. General surveys establish the presence or likely use of a site by badgers, but it cannot fully assess the importance of a site for a badger group. This level of survey can often be sufficient for planning purposes, mitigation and licensing; however, if the site is particularly large, likely to cause significant severance (such as a new road) or supports one or more large badger setts then further information regarding the badger groups territory is required to inform appropriate mitigation.
Developments that are likely to significantly affect a badger groups territory (for example direct habitat loss or severance) or cannot avoid damage or destruction of an important sett are likely to require baitmarking surveys.
Badger Territory Impacts:
Badgers live in family groups and are extremely territorial. The size of badger group territories varies greatly, but usually ranges between 50ha and 70ha in rural environments.
Development that is likely to significantly reduce the size of a badger group territory or restrict the safe movement of badgers should consider these impacts and to do so further information on the badger group(s) territory(ies) is likely to be required.
Within a badger groups territory there will be a number of setts of varying importance to the group (main setts, annex setts, subsidiary setts, outlier setts and single hole setts).
If the sett is of particular significance to the badger group and cannot be incorporated into a new development, an artificial sett will be required. Due to the territorial nature of badgers, it is essential that any artificial sett is located within an appropriate location within the same badger group’s territory as the one being lost.
Badger baitmarking is unlikely to be appropriate in the following instances, however, professional advice should be sought on a case by case basis:
- Small sites that are unlikely to form a significant part of any badger groups territory
- Urban environments where territorial marking is not as evident (protection of setts appears more important to urban badgers)
- Where only one main sett is present within 500m of a proposed development site
Badgers regularly mark the boundaries of their territories with dungpits or latrines (collection of dungpits). Whilst badgers mark their territory all year round, intensity increases between February and April (hence the survey period).
Badger baitmarking surveys entail identification of which latrines are associated with which badger setts on and/or within proximity to a site. The survey follows a relatively simple concept, but requires great care and attention in order to be effective. Methods broadly includes the following:
- Survey of land to identify setts and dungpit/latrines
- Placing of an irresistible peanut syrup mix at the entrance of each sett with different coloured plastic pellets for each sett
- Resurveying of dungpits and latrines to monitor colour of pellets
Once the extent of a badger territory is known it can be used to inform a detailed impact assessment and mitigation, including the provision and appropriate siting of an artificial sett.
In contrast to general badger surveys, which can be undertaken at any time of year, badger baitmarking surveys are very seasonally restricted and should only be undertaken between February and April (results may be limited if undertaken at other times of the year). Not only is the season restricted, the process is relatively intensive and requires numerous visits typically over a 2-3 week period.
Badgers are a protected species and as such are a material consideration in planning. Where the presence of badgers is likely and impacts unavoidable, planning authorities often request survey information in advance of determining a planning application.
The reasons for the survey may also have further timing considerations i.e. if the survey is to support the closure of an important sett consideration should be given to:
- The need to have planning permission prior to a licence application
- Up to 30 working days to process licence applications (Natural England recently extended from 15 working days)
- The need to ensure badgers have colonised new artificial setts prior to closure of existing setts (typically needs to be in place for six months)
- Seasonal restrictions in respect to implementation of sett closure under licence (sett closure under licence only allowed between 1 July and 30 November)
Ecosulis has undertaken a number of baitmarking badger surveys across the UK in respect to a range of developments including mixed-use, residential and road schemes. This information has been used to inform badger mitigation in support of the following:
- Planning applications
- Badger mitigation proposals, including artificial sett design and foraging/connective habitat enhancement
- Discharging planning conditions
- Badger licence applications
- Mitigation implementation
Having combined the implementation of badger mitigation with our ecological consultancy services for over 20 years we have been able to refine our proposals and have great confidence that the measures we propose are both pragmatic and cost effective.
For more information or advice on a specific site with badgers, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Clark, M (1994) Badgers. Whittet Books Ltd, London
Delahay, R. J., Brown, J. A., Mallinson, P. J., Spyvee, P. D., Handoll, D., Harris, S., Cresswell, P. and Jefferies, D. (1989) Surveying BadgersThe Mammal Society 9
Delahay, R. J., Brown, J. A., Mallinson, P. J., Spyvee, P. D., Handoll, D., Rogers, L. M. and Cheeseman, C. L. (2000) The use of marked bait in studies of the territorial organisation of the European Badger (Meles meles) Mammal Review 30
Harris Harris, S., Cresswell, P. and Jefferies, D. (1989) Surveying Badgers. The Mammal Society
Natural England (2010) Badgers and Development– A guide to best practice and licensing – Interim Draft. Natural England