Badgers are one of the most iconic and well loved wild animals of Britain, though for some they can be seen as a garden pest. So whether you’re keen to spot more or you’re fed up with them digging up your lawn, we have everything you need to know about badgers in the garden.
Signs of badgers
Badgers can be a little more destructive than most wildlife on their travels through your garden, leaving notable signs behind. They’re creatures of habit, following the same routes from their setts (underground tunnel complexes where they live in families) through local gardens in the search for food. You may see tunnels dug under your fences or chunks clawed out of the lawn. These are caused by the badgers digging for larvae below the turf, most common in spring time. You may also find they’ve burrowed into vegetable patches or flowerbeds – hunting for bulbs – when food is scarce. They are strong animals, so can also break into bins and compost heaps.
Like a lot of territorial creatures, badgers mark their area with urine and faeces, for which they’ll often dig latrines. You may spot one of these in your garden – it’ll be a trench about 15cm deep and 15cm wide.
Badgers rarely build their setts close to humans as they’re generally scared of us. But if you think they may be digging one in your garden – look out for tunnels of about 25cm diameter – then contact the Badger Trust immediately for advice.
Legal protections for badgers
It’s worth noting that badgers are the most protected of all British wildlife under strict laws, specifically the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. This makes it illegal to trap, harm or kill a badger, or to interfere with its sett. You could face up to 6 months in prison and an unlimited fine if you do so.
How to prevent badger damage in the garden
Given that badgers are so protected, you must be careful about any measures you take to control them on your property. You can try to make your garden less attractive to them or, in some cases, restrict their access.
The main reason badgers come into your garden is in search of food. So to discourage them, make sure any tasty treats like spilled birdseed (especially peanuts) or fallen fruit are cleared up each night. If you have a compost bin, ensure it’s sealed against pests.
Badgers dig up your lawn in search of insect larvae, but a well-drained and moss-free lawn is best for reducing insects laying larvae there. You can also embed a wire mesh over the lawn to make it harder for badgers to dig up.
If your garden is on a badger path, it’s common to find they dig under fences. They’re also strong – and determined – enough to climb over or tear down a weak fence. You can restrict their access by using electric fencing (including a timer to only turn it on at night) or reinforcing your fence with a strong wire mesh underground as illustrated below:
You must be careful with these methods though, as blocking up an entry point into your garden could be an offense if it prevents a badger getting to its sett. You may be better off putting a two-way hatch in the fence to allow badgers to pass through without digging or damage.
Lastly, no chemical deterrents for badgers are legally approved and the effects of ultrasonic repellers are unknown on them (although they are audible and used as a deterrent for a wide range of other pests).
Benefits of badgers
Badgers aren’t all bad in the garden. In fact, if you take the steps above to minimise their damage, they can be beneficial. Occasionally badgers will eat other pests like rats and mice. Plus, they are fascinating to watch and great for educating young children about wildlife and nature.
Tips for spotting badgers
Badgers are beautiful creatures and – at up to 1m long – some of the largest wildlife to visit your garden. If you’re keen to catch sight of one outside, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances.
Try putting out some of their favourite food like peanuts, raisins, bread or soft fruit on your patio – but no milk or meat. Of course, if they learn that your garden is a source of food, they’ll come back determined to find more whether you put it out or not! And this may attract unwanted pests to your garden too.
As badgers are nocturnal, you’re going to look out for them at nighttime. They have poor eyesight but good hearing, so if you sit quietly you may be able to watch them up close. Or if you don’t fancy staying up, you could invest in a wildlife camera instead.
George works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.
George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!
He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.