What We Do

Group committee members regularly provide a range of advice to the public. On average approximately five phone calls a week are received requesting help with a range of badger related issues. The main ones relate to badgers foraging or digging setts in gardens and threats to setts from land development, although reports of potential sett blocking have been increasing of late too. The average number of visits to various areas within the County to help resolve such matters amounts to approximately one a fortnight over the course of the year. Inevitably from time to time badgers enter gardens where they are unwelcome. Occasionally they create setts, but most often they venture in simply to feed on worms, grubs, insects, fallen fruit - and some seasonal vegetables. Often we are asked to give advice to stop them damaging gardens, lawns and fences. We do our best, but most often there is no simple answer.
The most obvious remedy is secure, well maintained fencing, ideally with strong wire mesh attached and trenched in to prevent the badgers burrowing underneath. But often that is too expensive or impractical. One temporary remedy is an electric fence, but again that’s not always feasible. The Group has one electric fence it is prepared to loan out for short periods in return for a small donation.
Some badger groups report success with ultrasonic devices designed to deter cats and wildlife in general. One worth trying is Animal Away Plus which is sold by a number of retailers, among them Maplins.
One other remedy that has worked successfully is to position in the garden a mains-operated radio and leave it playing quietly throughout the night. The sound deters the badgers. Badgers sometimes make a temporary home under patios, garages and garden sheds and when that happens it’s probably best to seek advice over the phone. For names of experienced Group members who can provide guidance over the telephone, or who may even be able to visit you, see Contact Us, But please remember Group members are all volunteers. Their time is limited and many work full-time. For especially difficult problems the advice of an experienced professional badger consultant may be needed. But please try us first.
We were involved directly and significantly in at least half a dozen release and rehab cases in 2016. One notable release involved an injured adult male which had been at the Nuneaton wildlife sanctuary for five months recuperating after a road accident. The location of the badger's ‘home’ sett was not known and so Steve Hawkes managed to find a suitable release site where ‘Denzel’ - as he had been nicknamed - was taken for release. Obviously impatient at acclimatising himself to the release area while still caged - Denzel decided to smash the cage door himself and bolt off to freedom in the wood. Another rehab incident involved a cub, found in the road in Edgbaston, which had been taken to the RSPCA in Frankley Green. They contacted Steve as it was uninjured and asked if he could help. Having been told where it had been found Steve went out and managed to track back to what was almost certainly its home sett. He then collected it from the RSPCA and arranged to let it go near to the sett late at night when it was safe to do so. The release was successful, as the cub soon found its old scent trails and returned home, meeting up with another clan member on the way. Later in the year Steve also found a release site for a group of five rehabbed foxes which Geoff Grewcock had been looking after and they were all successfully returned to the wild too.
So far in 2017 there have been five separate badger rescues by Steve - all successfully resulting in immediate releases for those animals involved. The most notable was in managing to catch a large male badger that had fallen into an (empty) sewage overflow filter bed using a long handled grasper. Access to the concrete bed some 30 yards in diameter and about 8 feet deep - was only gained by means of a ladder and the badger would have had no means of getting out himself. Indeed he was fortunate he wasn't injured in falling in there in the first place. After securing him Steve searched for, and found, the sett he had come from nearby. Then having ensured the badger was injury free he was released back into his sett none the worse for his adventure.
Rehabilitation-wise six badgers have been released back into the wild. One had been at the Nuneaton Rescue Centre and had recovered from a leg injury. He was released into an unused sett at a safe site earlier in the year. Another five badgers, all cubs, had been recuperating after injury/illness at The Vale wildlife hospital. The hospital contacted Steve and asked if he could help with a release site and, as he knew of a suitable one, he collected the cubs, took them there, and all were let go together. This was in late July. The cubs were all unrelated and came from different counties originally. All were tested for TB and were found to be clear. Night cameras left in situ for the nine weeks since release have shown that all five have settled in well and seem happy to have adopted the former disused sett as their permanent home now. Supplementary feeding was carried out nightly for the first fortnight but this has been gradually reduced to twice a week as at the end of September 2017. It is apparent that the cubs have been managing very well in finding their own food sources too - as is evident by their significant rate of growth since release. A week after the badger cubs were released six fox cubs were also collected from The Vale by Steve, taken to a safe wood, and were let go too. You can therefore see that the Group are happy to be involved in helping more than just badgers whenever we can.
Since 2011 our accredited vaccinator (Steve Hawkes) has completed vaccination projects on a farm on the borders of Warwickshire and Worcestershire. He has also helped Warwickshire Wildlife Trust to locate and survey setts, and in 2012 and 2013 to vaccinate badgers on its Brandon reserve and other WWT sites in 2013 to 2014. From 2012 to 2015 surveys and then vaccinations were successfully carried out on Ministry of Justice land near Rugby. He also carried out surveys at sites in Derbyshire and Shropshire to help other Badger Trust vaccinators in 2014. Unfortunately due to a nationwide shortage of BCG vaccine, Defra suspended all vaccination projects in 2016 and 2017. However a new supply has been sourced and so, from 2018, vaccinations can be resumed. The new vaccine is supplied in ampoules instead of the pre-sealed vials it was in during previous years. This means it has to be handled and reconstituted differently and presents lay-vaccinators with a slightly increased risk to health and safety than before. Steve attended a course in March to obtain a further Certificate of Competency in all procedures related to the use of the new vaccine. Having done so, he has now obtained a new licence from Natural England to trap and vaccinate badgers in Warwickshire from 2018 to 2021, so he will be vaccinating again and is planning to do so at four different sites this year (2018). This means that, at times, there may be an opportunity for Badger Group members to help in the extensive survey and cage-trap work which precedes vaccination. It is important and satisfying work that helps with badger conservation. Although trapping and vaccination is only allowed between May and November, important survey work, (finding active setts in each project area), can be carried out all through the year. Steve will let the members know as and when any volunteer help is likely to be required.
The effects of badger vaccination by injection have been evaluated in several captive experimental studies and during a four year field study in Gloucestershire in 2011 and 2012. Although vaccination with BCG will not guarantee protection from infection, meaning some badgers may still become infected, these studies provided very good evidence for the following beneficial effects : • Vaccination reduces the likelihood of badgers developing lesions or excreting TB bacteria • Vaccination reduces the rate of new infections (measured using diagnostic tests) in badgers by 76% • Vaccinating more than a third of adults in a badger social group reduces new infections (measured using diagnostic tests) in unvaccinated badger cubs by 79% Trapping for vaccination takes place once a year at each sett or target area and typically this is done for four years. It is unclear exactly how long the vaccine is effective in individual badgers. Annual vaccinations on a site over four years or longer will result in some animals being vaccinated several times, but this also aims to maintain vaccine coverage by vaccinating new cubs or immigrants into that particular social group. BCG is a live vaccine but studies have shown that any risk of vaccinated badgers shedding BCG into the environment is minimal. Vaccination does not lead to any change in badger ranging behaviour or perturbation and there is no evidence of negative effects on badger health or welfare either. The BCG vaccine, and separate diluent, has to be kept at all times at a temperature of between 2 and 8 degrees centigrade. This means when doing vaccinations a portable fridge has to be used to keep the vaccine within this temperature range. The vaccine and diluent have to be mixed together in the field when the number of badgers trapped is known. Once reconstituted in this way it has to be used within 4 hours. Prior to vaccinating an observation/health assessment has to be made for each trapped badger to decide if it is fit for inoculation. There are also strict time limits for releasing badgers after being vaccinated. During May any badger must have been vaccinated and released by 9 am at the latest. Between June and August releases have to be before 8 am or within 3 hours of light whichever is later. In September it is before 9 am or within 3 hours of light, and between October and November it is 10 am or within 3 hours of light whichever is later. There is a video showing a vaccination and release on "Our Videos" page. Click on this link to directly access the footage.
The group has systematically built up an extensive computerised database of several thousand setts since the Group was formed and is constantly looking for more. The database is currently maintained and overseen exclusively by our recorder Steve Hawkes. Sett location information is a valuable asset as it helps Group members to protect them. Ecological consultants, commissioned by developers and public utilities, also ask for help when they are preparing surveys and the data is also important when liaising with planning authorities about proposed new developments.
During 2015 there were nine requests for ecological data which required a detailed response from our sett recorder Steve Hawkes. He also carried out a full check survey (as requested by the Biological Records Centre on behalf of the council) of a former landfill site where there were thought to be some active badger holes. There were concerns that these holes might be compromising underground methane "pockets" but that did not turn out to be the case as the sett is a safe distance away from where these are.
Urban badgers often need to roam less than half a mile from their setts to find food. Rural badgers, creatures of our open countryside, may have to explore further, foraging for up to a mile and a half from their underground home. As they search for food, many have to cross busy roads and that is why so many are killed. There is nothing we can do about a badger RTC (Road Traffic Collisiion) unless it is a lactating badger sow in which case there is a possibility that there may be some orphaned cubs nearby. It is the job of the local district council, not us, to collect and remove carcases from the road.
Significant help / support / advice have been given to assist the newly formed West Midlands Badger Group in setting up and organising themselves. This includes providing them with advice on surveying techniques, data set up and maintenance, new member information packs and general guidance / protocols on dealing with all aspects of badger related work. We have also, through ongoing e-mail contact, provided regular advice to a couple of ‘independent badger protectors’ in the West Yorkshire area who have been trying to prevent badger baiting and sett disturbance which has been rife in their area. Where requested, new members to the Group have also been taken out to look at a variety of setts in order to help them see the signs to look for when deciding whether a sett is active or not - and indeed to identify whether it is a badger sett at all. Some Group members, equipped with our badger suit and Group banner, have also attended many of the anti-cull marches which have been happening around the country during the year. Venues visited included London, Gloucester, Oxford, Birmingham on two occasions, Cambridge, and Witney. We also now have a comprehensive ‘new member’ introduction package which is issued to anyone who now joins the WBG. This contains some very useful background information about badgers and is a very informative read.