In Scotland, badgers and their setts are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, as amended. This makes it an offence to damage, destroy or obstruct access to a sett, or disturb badgers while they are in a sett.
All of our badger surveyors are members of Scottish Badgers (a charity aimed at promoting the study, conservation and protection of badgers, their setts and their natural habitat in Scotland) and either are, or are working towards, becoming a Level One Registered Badger Worker through the charity’s training programme. This certifies them as having a reached a specific level of theory and practical knowledge.
A sett is defined as ‘any structure or place which displays signs indicating current use by a badger’. There is no legal definition as to what ‘signs indicating current use’ are, although Scottish Natural Heritage consider these to be field signs including bedding, fresh spoil heaps, hair, latrines, and footprints in or around the feature in question.
We carry out surveys for badgers to locate field signs such as paths, foraging grounds and dung, as well as the setts themselves. When we find a sett we classify it according to type, and grade each entrance hole as to the degree of usage. If it is not immediately clear whether a feature is a sett, all potential entrances will simultaneously undergo active monitoring for at least two weeks. We use sand traps (to look for footprints) and lightweight sticks placed across the entrances (to monitor if any animal enters or leaves). Camera traps can also be used.
No development works can take place within at least 30m of the nearest sett entrance, and this distance increases for more invasive works such as blasting. Licences from Scottish Natural Heritage allow otherwise illegal activities to be carried out, for example, working in proximity to a sett or sett destruction. Echoes hold licences permitting sett disturbance and destruction and have carried out numerous sett exclusions under licence.
For more information on badger licensing within Scotland visit Scottish Natural Heritage’s website here.