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Over the last two or three years I have been visiting a badger sett near my home, to take photos, or sometimes to just sit and watch them. I make, on average, about 10-15 visits per year, mostly in spring and summer, and rarely (if at all) over the winter.
The sett I visit is in fairly secluded woodland, on a fairly steep hillside about a mile from the nearest road/house. I'm normally in position (settled, hidden about 20 metres from the main sett entrance/exit) about 90 minutes before sunset, and they usually emerge (without fail) just after sunset.
Anyway, yesterday evening I made my first visit to them for about 6 months, and on approaching the woodland I noticed there had been a lot of tree-felling activity since I was last there. Some parts of the woodland are really now quite sparse, with huge areas of open sky where so many trees have been felled. At a guess, I'd say the felling occurred a couple fo months ago, based on the lack of sawdust, and the state of the exposed trunk stumps.
I noticed that there had been a lot of tree-felling right on top of the sett, with two big trees either side of the main entrance down - and even worse, having been allowed to fall and completely block secondary entrances. A lot of other felling had been done within 10-20 metres of the sett, and a few dense holly bushes (through which a couple of the badger's paths went) have been uprooted and removed. I was a bit concerned when I saw the scene, and even more concerned when the badgers failed to emerge at all during the 3 hours I was there. As said above, they have always made an appearance when I've been there.
The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 states that it is an offence to interfere with a badger sett. Specifically, Section 3(e) states it is an offence to disturb badger when it is occupying a badger sett.
There are some exceptions to this, namely "a person is not guilty of an offence ... if he shows that his action was necessary for the purpose of preventing serious damage to land, crops, poultry or any other form of property", and "A person is not guilty of an offence ... if he shows that his action was the incidental result of a lawful operation and could not reasonably have been avoided"
I can't see that the tree-felling was necessary to prevent serious damage to land (and there are no crops, poultry or properties within at least a mile of the woods). But I'm not sure about the exception that the tree-felling was "lawful and could not have been avoided" - I don't have reason to suspect that felling the trees was unlawful, but I do think that felling the trees right on top of the sett could have been avoided. I'm no tree surgeon, but the trees that were there looked healthy enough - and no worse than a lot of the trees which have been left untouched.
It just strikes me as strange that one of the largest areas of tree-felling was immediately on top of and around the sett, whilst other parts of the woodland appear to have been ignored by the chainsaws. Anybody have any thoughts or ideas? I have very little knowledge or experience of this kind of thing, and this is the only sett I have ever regularly visited.
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I seem to recall from days working in a local authority that the enforcement rests with the police. Phone your local police headquarters (you may have to ask for the wildlife liaison officer or someone similar) and give them the details/location.
Leave it to them to investigate if there is an offence. Alternatively phone English Nature for advice.
Cheers for the advice. Think I'll give the local police a call, see what they say. If there's anything worth reporting back, I'll post.
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