Protecting the marsh badgers, and the law.
15th February 2012: Wilden Marsh is fortunate in that it has a long-established badger population. Badgers and their setts (the holes in which they live) are protected by law under the Badgers Act 1992. Badgers have full legal protection from deliberate injury or maltreatment under the 1985 amendment to the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. Anyone found close to a badger’s sett may now have to prove that they are not engaged in badger digging activities.
At this time the year, when most of the vegetation has died away, access to the marsh badgers’ setts, by unauthorised people and dogs, is all too easy. I check the areas around the setts regularly to satisfy myself that things are as they should be and that the badgers are not being interfered with. This I do slowly and quietly, the way I do most things around the marsh, minimising disturbance to the animals and taking the time to look closely at the ground signs. What I am looking for is footprints, whether these belong to humans or animals. I rarely find human footprints near the setts, but I do find domesticated dog prints. These are likely to be the prints of unleashed dogs that are on their way to, or returning from being walked in the lagoon fields. What some ill-informed dog owners can fail to realise is that it is a criminal offense not to have a dog or dogs under close control, or on a lead, in a field or enclosure containing livestock. Badgers roam all over the lagoon field, and the marsh cattle are next to it. A dog does not have to chase the animals to cause an offence, and it could be shot if it is thought to be threatening them. Dog waste is also a problem and a health hazard!
It can be something unusual in an area 100 meters from setts that will attract my attention: digging, damaged or flattened vegetation, rubbish that I have not noticed before, or some other item such as a plastic bottle, a carrier bag or a food container. In fact, anything indicating that someone or something might have wandered too close to the setts will warrant further investigation. I have stumbled upon badger baiters in Hoo Wood and worry that they might turn their attentions to the marsh badgers.
Intra-red cameras are extremely useful when I need reassurance; they are quickly and easily hidden, and are very effective tools.
It is not a practical proposition to give the marsh badgers 100% protection. We can only keep a general eye on the area in which they live, to an extent that we are not inhibiting their day to-day activities.
To find out more about badger protection law, go here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1992/51/contents