Environmental management – guidance

Badgers: protection, surveys and licences

What you must do to avoid harming badgers and when you need a licence.

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Badgers and their setts (tunnels and chambers where they live) are protected by law.

In most cases, you should be able to avoid harming the badgers by adjusting your planned work. If you can’t avoid disturbing them or damaging their habitats, you may be able to get a licence from Natural England. If you need to apply for planning permission, your planning authority will check you’re taking the right steps to avoid harming them.

What you must not do

You’re breaking the law if you:

  • wilfully capture, kill or injure badgers
  • damage, destroy or block access to setts (even accidentally)
  • disturb badgers in setts
  • cruelly ill-treat a badger
  • deliberately introduce a dog into a sett
  • bait badgers
  • dig for badgers
  • possess, sell or offer for sale a live badger
  • possess or control a dead badger or parts of a badger (if unlawfully obtained)
  • mark or attach a device to a badger

If you’re found guilty of an offence you could be sent to prison for up to 6 months and be fined £5,000 for each offence.

Activities that can harm badgers

Activities that can affect badgers include:

  • destroying or damaging setts
  • causing noise, additional lighting or vibration
  • pile driving, quarry blasting, lighting fires or using chemicals

In most cases you should be able to avoid harming the badgers, damaging or blocking access to their setts.

You can build or do work near badgers but you must comply with the laws protecting them even when planning permission isn’t needed.

Decide if you need a licence

It’s up to you to decide if your activity will affect badgers or their habitats, and whether you’ll need a licence. You can get expert advice from an ecologist to help you decide, but this isn’t a legal requirement.

You should try everything else possible to avoid disturbing the badgers, blocking access to or damaging their setts. In most cases you should be able to plan the work to achieve this.

If this isn’t possible and your activity will affect the badgers, you can apply for a development licence from Natural England. Applying for a licence should be your last resort and only applies to a minority of cases.

Licences to kill or take badgers are only issued in exceptional circumstances – you need to show that there’s no other way to solve the problem. You can’t get a licence to trap or kill badgers for development – a development licence only allows you to interfere with setts. Interfering with a sett should be avoided in the breeding season (December to June).

You may get a development licence to close down setts or parts of setts prior if badgers are at risk. This is usually only allowed between July and November inclusive.

Your ecologist will conduct surveys to show how the badgers use the area, and develop mitigation plans to reduce any negative effects.

Get expert help

Species surveys need to be conducted by a qualified and experienced ecologist. You can find an ecologist from:

When you need a survey

If you need a development licence, you will need to arrange a survey to support your application. The survey will show how the badgers use the area, and will be used as evidence for your mitigation plans. If you need planning permission, your planning authority may also want to see the survey report.

Standards for surveys and mitigation plans

Natural England and your planning authority will check that your surveys and mitigation plans meet certain standards, summarised below. These aren’t legal requirements, but they constitute Natural England’s standing advice. For more detail on surveying and mitigation, refer to the design manual for roads and bridges: mitigating against the effects on badgers (PDF, 929KB, 42 pages) .

The planning authority and Natural England will check how recent the survey is – the older it is, the less reliable its findings may be.

Surveys should look for the following signs:

  • sett entrances
  • badger paths
  • latrines
  • scratching posts
  • evidence of digging for food
  • badger hair on fences or bushes

Surveys should include enough information to show any possible impacts to badgers and their status on the site (this can take several months).

Surveys can be done at any time of year. The best time is in spring, early autumn or winter when badgers are active but there’s less vegetation to hide field signs.

If development will destroy setts or foraging areas or separate badgers from their foraging grounds, you may need to do extra surveys to:

  • estimate territorial boundaries
  • assess impacts such as increased conflict between badger clans
  • identify locations for mitigation measures

Mitigation and compensation plans

Your ecologist will produce a mitigation and compensation strategy to include with your development licence application. If you need planning permission, your planning authority may also want to see your mitigation plans.

Your planning authority and Natural England will review these plans so they can assess how your proposals will affect the badgers.

Your mitigation plan should aim to:

  • conserve the species population and distribution
  • maintain connections between habitats and foraging areas or create new ones
  • consider how other species could be affected by the mitigation

Mitigation could include:

  • new foraging and watering habitats to make up for losses
  • tunnels or underpasses between setts and foraging habitats to maintain access
  • avoiding the breeding season between the beginning of December and the end of June when badgers are particularly vulnerable

If your work will cause unavoidable harm to badgers or damage to their setts, you need a compensation plan to show how you’ll compensate for this.

Your compensation plan should aim to:

  • make up for any damage to badgers
  • make sure there’s no net loss of habitat
  • provide a better habitat if significant damage is predicted

Compensation could include:

  • alternative setts to replace those to be destroyed as close as possible to the original sett – artificial setts should be a last resort as badgers prefer natural setts (you may need to show that badgers have found the structure)
  • ways to improve habitat or compensate for habitat that’s destroyed

The planning authority might ask you to include specific measures to mitigate or compensate for any negative effects to badgers, through planning conditions or obligations. They can also ask you to enhance habitats through your development.

Future management, maintenance and monitoring

Natural England (and your planning authority, if you need planning permission) will want to see your plans for future management, maintenance and monitoring of the badger population.

Apply for a licence

Licences are free. Allow up to 30 working days for a licensing decision to be made.

Apply online

To apply online:

  1. Read the Guide to applying for a protected species licence online (PDF, 568KB, 16 pages) .
  2. Register on Government Gateway.
  3. Log on to Natural England’s online licensing portal using your Government Gateway ID and password.

Apply by post or email

Download badger licence application forms to complete and return to Natural England.

Contacts

Email: wildlife@naturalengland.org.uk

Telephone: 0845 601 4523

Natural England wildlife licensing
First floor
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Bristol
BS1 6EB

Where badgers are found

Badgers are found throughout England and can be found in both rural and urban areas.

Areas used for foraging and for setts include:

  • woodland
  • pasture
  • farmland
  • embankments and slopes
  • parks
  • gardens

Check where badgers are found:

If there are no records of badgers in your area it doesn’t mean badgers aren’t there.