The Ecology Partnership were instructed to carry out an update walkover survey of a site in Sittingbourne, Kent. An active badger sett was identified in the middle of the proposed development site in March 2018. Monitoring of the sett was then required in order to determine the level of badger activity and the sett type. This was carried out over a five-week period between April and May 2018 using motion sensitive, infra-red cameras and by looking for field signs such as fresh spoil heaps, paw prints, bedding and latrines. Monitoring determined that the sett was a main breeding sett with at least two adults (one male, one female) and a juvenile present.
Adult and juvenile badgers emerging from the same hole of the original sett
It is always recommended that the main breeding sett is retained where possible; however, given its location, this was not possible in this case. The creation of a new artificial sett was therefore recommended nearby within an area of retained green space which would be enhanced for wildlife. The new sett would lie adjacent to a new orchard and wildflower meadow as well as a woodland with connectivity to the wider landscape.
The new sett was created in June 2018 and designed to contain six chambers and six entrance holes. The chambers were at least 35cm high and approximately 90cm x 60cm in size. The tunnel length from the entrance to the chamber was at least 5m. Natural spoil heaps with some spoil taken from the original sett were made outside each entrance hole. Tunnels with dead ends were also included to provide opportunities for sett expansion. The plastic pipes forming the tunnels had the bottoms cut out so that the badgers walked on the soil. The sett was covered in a steel mesh to deter illegal digging and then finally covered with soil. Thorny planting around the new sett was also recommended to give added protection.
New artificial sett being created
The badgers were encouraged to find the new sett using a trail of peanuts and golden syrup starting at the original sett and over a disused agricultural field to the new sett. This trail was laid twice a week for a period of three months. The duration was required given the distance between setts (approximately 450m). Motion sensitive infra-red cameras were set up around both setts to monitor badger activity. Badgers were observed investigating the new sett, entering the holes and digging at the entrances in August 2018 and were confirmed to be using the artificial sett in September 2018.
Badgers using new sett
As the badgers were found to be regularly using the new sett, a Natural England licence was applied for to close the old sett. One-way badger gates were installed on all the entrances of the old sett and mesh laid around the holes to prevent digging. These were then monitored to ensure the badgers were no longer using this sett. Once confirmed, the old sett was successfully closed under licence.
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