Despite being elusive animals, badgers are widespread throughout the UK, Ireland and parts of Europe, but, being largely nocturnal, they are infrequently seen.
They are omnivorous, with a diverse diet consisting of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fruits, nuts and berries, and can consume several hundred earthworms every night. They are social creatures, and live together in underground setts, which consist of a network of tunnels connecting multiple entrances and nesting chambers. Badgers inherit setts from their parents, and are continuously expanding and refining them.
It is not uncommon for badgers to be found on development sites. However, badgers and their setts are protected by law, which means a licence needs to be obtained from Natural England before a badger sett can be disturbed. The licence will include a method statement which specifies measures to ensure no badgers are harmed, and that any damage to setts is mitigated.
As part of mitigation works in Exeter, Thomson Habitats created an artificial badger sett to provide habitat for badgers affected by a development project. The design was based on a natural sett, and it ranged from 10m to 13m in width and comprised a network of 1m-2m long tunnels with interconnecting entrances and nesting chambers. Numerous open-ended branches were created to allow the badgers to continue digging and expanding the sett.
Once the artificial sett had been constructed, earth was placed on top burying it to a depth of approximately 1.5m. The badgers will be encouraged to move into the new sett outside the breeding season and before any development work commences. The project demonstrates how it is possible to facilitate development whilst minimising the impact on protected native species and to remain within the law.