Hand-augering to locate European badger Meles meles tunnels and chambers as part of emergency mitigation along water pipe installation works near Stanway, Essex, England
Adderton I.V.P. (2011) Hand-augering to locate European badger Meles meles tunnels and chambers as part of emergency mitigation along water pipe installation works near Stanway, Essex, England. Conservation Evidence, 8, 6-10.
European badgers Meles meles and their setts are legally protected in the UK. If setts are to be damaged or destroyed as part of development, humane exclusion of badgers is usually required in advance of works. Exclusion can be achieved by erecting one-way gates over sett entrances which allow badgers to exit but not regain entry. Natural England (the governmental conservation advisory body in England) recommends that exclusion is maintained for 21 days before construction work begins to ensure that the sett has been vacated. In this study, a large diameter (400 mm) water main was installed through a badger sett without exclusion of animals due to discovery of the sett only after construction work had commenced. The sett location and the presence of numerous European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus burrows interspersed with sett entrances would have made exclusion difficult. As an emergency mitigation measure, a 1.4 m deep, 40 cm wide trench was excavated 6 m from the sett entrances (located mostly in a lapsed field boundary using a combination of hand augering (to detect badger tunnels and chambers; these were then excavated by hand), followed by mechanical excavation. Subsequent to this, work to excavate the trench, lay the pipe through the sett and back-fill the trench took one week. Despite the disturbance caused by this approach, badgers were not excluded from the entire sett and the risk of killing badgers which may have been present below ground was significantly reduced; no badger or other large mammal activity was evident during the mitigation works.
All works were carried out under Natural England licence and under the supervision of an ecologist and a Natural England Wildlife Management Adviser.