Environmental management – guidance

Badgers: protection and licences

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

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

You may be able to get a licence from Natural England if you can’t avoid disturbing badgers in their sett or damaging their sett.

What you must not do

You could be sent to prison for up to 6 months and get an unlimited fine if you’re found guilty of any of these offences:

  • intentionally capture, kill or injure a badger
  • damage, destroy or block access to their setts
  • disturb badgers in setts
  • treat a badger cruelly
  • deliberately send or intentionally allow a dog into a sett
  • bait or dig for badgers

You’re breaking the law and could get an unlimited fine if you:

  • have or sell a badger, or offer a live badger for sale
  • have or possess a dead badger or parts of a badger (if you got it illegally)
  • mark or attach a marking device to a badger

Activities that can harm badgers

Activities that can affect badgers include:

  • destroying or damaging their setts
  • noise, additional lighting or vibration
  • pile driving
  • quarry blasting
  • lighting fires
  • using chemicals
  • excavation
  • ploughing and harvesting crops
  • tree felling and timber extraction
  • construction or repair of flood defences or watercourses

When you’ll need a licence

In most cases you should be able to avoid disturbing badgers and damaging or blocking access to their sett.

If you can’t avoid this, you can apply for a licence to interfere with a sett from Natural England. You’ll need to show you’ve tried everything else possible to avoid affecting badgers.

You’ll need expert help with your licence application if it’s for a development project. Find out what type of survey and mitigation methods will be needed to support a planning application.

When you usually won’t need a licence

You usually won’t need a licence to do the following if it’s unlikely to disturb a badger in its sett or damage a sett:

  • work with hand tools or machinery above or below ground close to a sett
  • clear vegetation near setts, including felling small trees or shrubs, provided they are not uprooted and don’t block access to the sett
  • clear ditches and watercourses using hand tools or machinery

Natural England will consider the existing level of disturbance around a sett when deciding if you need a licence.

Damage to property or land

If you think badgers are causing damage to your property or land you may be able to solve the problem without getting a licence. For example you could:

  • use fences (including electric fences) to stop badgers from entering your land, provided this doesn’t block access to the sett
  • add two-way gates to fences so badgers don’t damage them

You may be able to get a licence to interfere with the sett if the damage caused by the sett is, or is likely to become, serious, eg subsidence, damage to roads or paths.