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One of the biggest "complaints" we get about badgers is that they are coming into gardens looking for food (or sometimes just passing through). Apart from toleration, the permanent solution is normally to install suitable badger-proof fencing.

Electric Fencing

The next solution is to use an appropriate electric fence to give the badgers a sharp, but non-lethal "sting" on the nose if they try to get into a protected area. This can provide value-for-money for ceremonial gardens, putting greens, bowling greens and cricket pitches; for commercial planting schemes/shared allotments; and for large gardens. It can be more difficult in the woodland environment; and where additional wiring loops need to be installed to cope with bumps, ditches and undulations in the line of the fence.

The electric fence can be bought from specialised farm or agricultural supplies merchants; and needs to be used between dusk and dawn for at least a few weeks (i.e. until each visiting badger has had a "sting" on the nose). The best guesstimate is that they will remain effective for at least 95% of badgers who have been stung (as exceedingly few like to receive a second sting). This means that after the initial few weeks, you can take the risk that the fence can be left in situ, but left non-electrified; and it may still deter those badgers who have come across it before.

Electric fences must be powered from a specialised transformer (which gets its power from the mains or from a car battery). If you use a car battery, you will need two batteries, so you can charge one up on a trickle-charger, whilst the other one of electrifying the fence.

One serious downside of an electric fence, is that they can be lethal to smaller animals or amphibians. Another is that they need to be installed on on specialised insulated fence posts above short vegetation (which can't short out the fence). In the summer months, vegetation can grow very quickly, and this can soon "short out" the electrified cables.

There are also potential liability issues. Whilst the fences are non-lethal for humans, you do need to maintain suitable warning notices at frequent intervals along the electric fence to warn people the fence will give them a painful shock. As society seems to becoming ever more litigious, the possibility of having to defend yourself in court over the use of a non-lethal electric fence can not now be ruled out with 100% certainty. For an example of the illegal use of an electric fence, please see the following news article: 22 May 2003 from BBC News.

If you are interested in using electric fencing to deter badgers, we would very very strongly recommend that you seek advice from either a Badger Consultant or a local Badger Group who have experience of setting up and maintaining them. The "standard" sort of electric fence (normally just one-wire) used for cattle is NOT suitable for badgers.

To stop badgers getting in to your vegetable patch, use electrified flexinet fencing (pegged down along its length to prevent badgers squeezing underneath) or two strands of electrified Polywire at 7.5-20cm above ground.

Wire Fencing

http://i03.i.aliimg.com/img/pb/665/705/236/1268126366269_hz_fileserver1_575725.jpgIf you wish to install permanent fencing this is a substantial operation, as you need exceptionally strong wire fencing, which needs to be sunk underground between 30cm and 50cm deep. You also need to be sure that all access and exit points are badger-proofed - which can mean installing automatic gate closers where you have absent minded children or visitors. Unless you have an exceptionally large or valuable private garden or do commercial planting, this enormous can rarely be justified; except in new-build or major re-build schemes.

Badger-proof fencing is required for all sorts of reasons. Such fencing may be needed for the badgers own protection - for example, to keep them away from busy roads, motorways and railway lines. If their territorial boundary is aligned with the road or the railway line, the fence would be used to stop any inquisitive badgers from exploring. If their territory was on either side of the road or railway, the fencing would be used to direct the badgers to a safe crossing point - such as a culvert, tunnel or bridge.

Fencing may also be used to exclude badgers from getting into an area where they might pose a danger to themselves or, by breaking down a less resilient fence, thereby allow children to access a dangerous area; so such fencing may be used around electrical supply installations, chemical processing or storage facilities and, of course, military installations.

Badger-proof Fencing?

Despite the claims made by various manufacturers, very few fences can be certain to be 100% badger-proof; and badger-resistant is perhaps a more accurate description of what the fence usually provides.

The real-world effectiveness of the fence will depend on how determined the badgers are to break through or otherwise circumvent the fence; as well as how opportunistic they might be in a particular circumstance; and how well the fence has been installed.

Click picture to see a larger picture

Individual badgers may be very determined to climb the fence; and a particularly skilful individual animal may be able to climb several feet up a wire fence and make an ungainly drop over the other side. Others may adopt a team-based approach, where they make great efforts to gnaw and scratch at support posts, or joins in the wires; or even excavate tunnels deep underneath the fence. On other occasions, gaps in the fencing, perhaps due to accidents or vandalism; or poor installation; or gates being left open, may be exploited by badgers and other species. This does not happen very often, but it would be very wise to allow at least a small amount in the total fencing budget for a detailed inspection a few days and a few weeks after the fence has gone up, to see if it has any vulnerable areas.

One of the fencing types used in the past has been plastic-coated chain-link fencing (2.5mm wire) or galvanised heavyweight animal fencing. This needs to be at least 120cm tall; and ideally made from a single "strip". Using a two-strip approach is possible, but it is extremely difficult to make the joins sufficiently badger-proof - especially as they may well be at a height at which the badger can exert maximum power from their claws. Poor fencing practices are an especial risk if contractors have agreed to do the fence for a fixed price; and sections of the fence might later prove difficult or troublesome to inspect.

To be effective, the fencing needs to be sunk into the ground to a depth of 50cm AND so that there is a right angle bend in the direction away from the road/railway. This may prove exceptionally difficult or expensive to do for existing roads; although it may prove most cost-effective for new-build roads given the amount of construction and excavation work already to be done.

In areas which have large numbers of hard rocks, it may be possible to pin the fencing to the rocks, instead of blasting through them. Also, in areas where badgers have very rarely or never been seen, road companies may opt to install as little as 30cm underground, with no right angle bend. This may be enough to prevent the occasional badger visitor from starting a dig. However, in the areas around setts, badger paths and crossing points the fence should be buried to the full 50cm depth with the right-angle bend.

http://www.jpk.ie/db/Gallery/Gallery/Welded-Mesh-Gallery/JPK-Sports-Weldmesh-3.3.18.JPGAn alternative to the fitting an underground fence is to install a concrete barrier instead. Again this needs to be 50cm deep; and it needs to provide a dig-proof and scratch-resistant surface. We have seen this done by digging a narrow trench; filling the base with high-strength cement, and setting concrete paving stones vertically on their edges. Once set, the trench can then be re-filled with the excavated soil. Small gaps can be left between the paving stones to help with drainage and to buy fewer paving stones overall. The top edge of the slabs should then be capped with another resilient concreted-in layer, such as concrete coping stones. These coping stones can then be used as an anchor to support a wire fence. As the wire fence may have some flexibility at ground level. it's base needs to be securely fastened to the concrete bases at very frequent intervals. This is used around some housing estates, although the perimeter of the estate may in fact have a twin fence. The other fence would be the badger-proof wire one; and the inner fence a taller wooden one to provide the new human residents privacy from roads, each other and anything else they don't want to look at.

The other big issue with fencing is that of ground conditions. We have already mentioned the risks of land drainage being affected, but fences will be expected to be snug across the ground - including over bumps, and down into troughs, dips and drainage ditches. We would reiterate the point that a determined badger will be able to get through a small gap; and it may appear hell-bent on enlarging any existing gap which is too small. Checking the fencing in the early days will allow any gaps or weaknesses to be rectified - hopefully before an incident or an accident occurs.

In terms of locating fences, badgers are generally quite shy creatures, and many may seek the cover of walking along hedgerows, walls and fences to try and remain unseen. Accordingly, installing fencing along existing boundaries may be the better option.

A major reason for installing badger-proof fencing is to direct badgers towards safe crossing points (such as wildlife tunnels or bridges). Given the costs involved in doing the fencing; it really does pay to make sure a badger expert is involved.

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About Wildlife Consultants
Laws protect badgers from being harmed and their homes damaged. Whilst permits can be issued to allow such badgers to be moved, you need to have professional research done to see where the badgers are and what they need. In commercial property development, finance and logistics can be very important. Also, if an insurance company is paying for re-building work, they may want to be certain that the commercial risks are understood too. Wildlife Consultants are usually highly experienced at dealing with such legal and commercial issues and should be able to help mitigate the risks. Wildlife consultants help deal with protected species, making sure that developers understand the law AND the needs of any animals. Local Badger Groups may also conduct badger surveys, and we run our own email-based Ask An Expert service.