The focus of this month’s post is badger surveys in relation to development. Badger surveys are often required as part of the planning process and as with all things ecological, it’s best to undertake initial scoping surveys for this species early on in the planning and design of a development scheme.


Badger ecology

Badgers are active all year round although their activity decreases over the winter months. They are most active at night and can be found in a variety of habitats, being adaptable to both rural and urban environments.


Badgers use different types of setts within their territory for different purposes. There are typically four main types of sett known as main, annex, subsidiary and outliers.


Why are badger surveys required?

Badgers and their setts are strictly protected under The Protection of Badgers Act, 1992. This makes it an offence to intentionally damage, destroy, or obstruct access to a badger sett or to disturb a badger in their sett. Legislation also makes it illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take a badger (or attempt to do so). Therefore, it is important to consider the potential presence of badgers on site and within the zone of influence of a proposed development.


Badger survey methodology

Badger surveys can be carried out at any time of year. As badgers are generally active at night, badger surveys seek to identify field signs of badger presence rather than the animals themselves. When undertaking a badger survey, a suitably experienced ecologist looks for signs such as hairs, footprints, latrines, setts, feeding signs, push throughs and runs through vegetation.


If badger activity is identified, further survey work may be required in order to find out more detailed information about how badgers are using the site and zone of influence.


What happens if badgers are found to be present on site?

This very much depends on how badgers are using the site and the development proposals. But broadly speaking, the optimal solution is to avoid any impacts to badgers in the first instance; if this is not possible, an experienced ecologist will advise on the suitable options to ensure that legislation and best practice is not contravened. This may involve undertaking works under licence. Natural England will only normally licence works between July and November, which is outside the period when badgers have dependent cubs.


Our ecologists are experienced in undertaking surveys for badgers. They are also able to advise on the appropriate course of action in the event that badgers are found to be present and are able to guide you through the licensing and monitoring process if required.


How long are badger surveys valid for?

Each site and circumstance is different and so it can be difficult to generalise about the lifespan of a survey and report. However, broadly speaking, surveys and reports that are less than twelve-months old are generally considered to be valid. Those between twelve and eighteen months old are also generally considered to be valid, unless there are features present on site that badgers could make use of within a short time frame, or where site conditions have changed significantly. If a survey is over eighteen months old an update is required. That being said, badgers are a species that can colonise a site relatively quickly if conditions are suitable, so in addition to the standard survey work mentioned above, it is recommended that a check for badgers is undertaken immediately before construction works commence.