STARRING VIDEO ROLE FOR A FARM TERRIER
Love them or hate them, badgers are a protected species. But just how protected they are came as a surprise to this farmers wife, who not surprisingly prefers to remain anonymous
HEDGE removal is not a task entered into lightly. But the purchase of new land, together with impending legislation, recently left us with little alternative.
Two steep fields were divided by a hedgerow riddled with rabbit warrens, so we took the relatively unusual decision to remove it, to improve workability and reduce pest damage. Plantings elsewhere on the farm would more than compensate for any loss of habitat, we reasoned.
The work started well. By the end of the first day a local contractor had removed most of the hedge. A considerable amount of pest control had also been undertaken by Gromit the farm terrier. That just left bank levelling for the following morning.
But before work could start an RSPCA inspector arrived, keen to halt proceedings. His news was not what we wanted to hear – apparently there was a potentially protected badger sett hidden between the many burrows.
After some discussion, mutual co-operation was agreed. The threat of a substantial fine (or worse!) was lifted, provided work on the bank was halted so an independent badger survey could be carried out.
This proved a surprisingly complex undertaking to the uninitiated. An appropriate expert, with a most befitting streak of grey hair, was called in to monitor activity. The systematic approach taken involved the entire 180m (590ft) length of bank. Sand was placed around hole entrances and surrounding areas patted down in an effort to find clearer track imprints.
Five frosty nights later it was confidently felt that the sett was not currently in use and careful dismantling could take place.
But first it was necessary to record video evidence of inactivity for the benefit of official parties. Spades at the ready, operators waited patiently as tripod and camera were set up and focused.
Unfortunately the suspense proved too much for the ever-zealous Gromit. Escaping from what had been considered a secure farm truck, he lurched noisily across the groomed bank and dived down the burrow – thwarting any attempts to produce a permanent record of inactivity!
Some 45min later, spade operators finally dug within arms length of the cheeky terriers tail and dismantling proper could commence.
Fortunately, the comprehensive survey discovered a second badger sett in another piece of hedgerow we were planning to start work on the following day. It showed signs of activity, but as this was the middle of the badger breeding season any immediate relocation was banned.
Instead an obligatory 30m (98.4ft) stretch of hedgerow was left either side of this second sett. Provided we are successful with our licence application, we should be able to relocate those badgers and their young sometime next summer.
Until then Gromit is under close control.
Protection of Badgers Act 1992
Six months imprisonment and/or £5,000 if guilty of:
• Interfering with badger sett.
• Damaging a sett.
• Destroying a sett.
• Disturbing a sett.
• Obstructing entrance to sett
• Permitting a dog to access sett.
A sett is defined as a structure or place which displays signs indicating current use by a badger.
Source: Local police.
BADGER ACTIVITY SIGNS
• Concave roof and floor tohole entrance.
• Communal latrine areas near holes.
• Distinctive 5-toe track with broad pad.
Source: Independent badger expert.
UPON FINDING A SETT:
1. Halt work immediately.
2. Contact ADAS Statutory Wildlife Consultant for verbal advice.
3. If necessary submit licence application to MAFF Regional Service Centre. The licenceis "to achieve desired result for farmer with minimum disturbance to badgers".
4. ADAS visit to evaluate situation.