Autumn 2017 has seen a spate of incidents of damage to property and distress to residents, caused by the presence of badgers.
Badgers are a wild animal and as such are protected by law. As a result, the council is no more liable or responsible for the actions of badgers than anyone else.
Under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, in England and Wales it is an offence to:
Wilfully kill, injure or take a badger (or attempt to do so)
Cruelly ill-treat a badger
Dig for a badger
Intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy a badger sett, or obstruct access to it
Cause a dog to enter a badger sett
Disturb a badger when it is occupying a sett
Natural England is allowed under the 1992 Act to licence in England the killing or taking of badgers or interference with badger setts ‘for the purpose of preventing the spread of disease’.
Householders/agencies can also apply for a licence to seek to exclude badgers from a sett. However, badger licences (and the work they permit) are awarded only where severe damage is being caused.
Badgers frequently come into urban areas to forage, and as urban areas continue to expand, more and more badgers are living close to built-up areas. In gardens they may damage fences, dig up lawns for insect larvae, turn over dustbins, climb fruit trees or break their lower branches to obtain cherries, apples, pears or plums. They may raid new potato crops, dig up carrots and damage sweet corn. Badgers also use latrines to mark their territories, and these may be dug in lawns or flower beds. However, it is unlikely that badgers digging in gardens would ever be considered to be causing serious economic damage for which a licence to kill or take badgers would be granted.
Badgers are powerful animals that can break or dig under most conventional fencing and can climb surprisingly well. A fence that will keep out a badger needs to be strong, usually chain link, and 125cm or more high. Fencing should be dug at least 30cm (and preferably 50cm) into the ground. Gateways and other points of entry need to be secure enough to stop a badger squeezing through or climbing over or under.
The application of an appropriate insecticide or vermicide will remove the insects or earthworms that are attracting the badgers to the lawn. However, such treatment will deny this food source to birds and other animals as well as badgers.
Damage to wooden or netting fences will recur if the fences are repaired. Badgers are creatures of habit and will continue to use traditional pathways.
In the past, to try to prevent badgers entering a garden where damage had occurred, rags or ropes soaked in repellents such as creosote, diesel fuel or ‘Renardine’ were hung across entrance points. However, experience showed that these rarely worked, and the use of these substances is also now illegal for discouraging badgers.
The only realistic way to deter badgers from entering gardens/greenspaces is to use a small electric fence. It also has the advantage of being removable, so that it only needs to be used at those times of the year when badgers are being particularly troublesome. This period is July-November each year.
As badgers are protected in law and are a wild animal, this means nobody – including the council - is responsible for their actions.
The Council has no more obligations in respect of a wild animal than any resident does.
This means that the council only has a decision to take in terms of deciding what, if any, steps it thinks it needs to take about badger related problems and damage, where that happens in respect of land it owns or is otherwise responsible for.
The council is not responsible for paying for works required to land that it does not own and/or is not responsible for. This applies irrespective of where the badgers might actually be based or where their setts are.
That means, in basic terms, that where damage is caused to a particular piece of land then it is for that land owner where the damage occurs to address it.
Homeowners or landowners are advised to check their buildings and/or other insurance cover and satisfy themselves that they have appropriate cover.
It can be the case that more than one owner may be affected by badger activity. We would encourage owners to work together to address this collaboratively, and to contribute proportionately to any works required to resolve any problems that might arise.
If you are a private tenant or Housing Association tenant you should contact your landlord. Dudley Council tenants should contact their Housing Manager.