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 be fined £5,000 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 be fined £5,000 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 harming badgers and damaging or blocking access to their setts.

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. 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:

  • work with hand tools or machinery above or below ground close to a sett
  • clear vegetation near setts, including felling small trees or shrubs
  • clear ditches and watercourses using hand tools or machinery

Natural England will usually consider the existing level of disturbance around a sett when deciding if a licence will be needed.

Damage to property or land

If you think badger setts have caused 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
  • add two-way gates to fences so badgers don’t damage them
  • apply pesticides to reduce the number of grubs or insects, which attract badgers

You may be able to get a licence to interfere with the sett if the damage is serious, eg subsidence.