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Badger Awareness Course. Badger

Badger Awareness Course

Badger Survey

In December 2016 Cherryfield Ecology’s team attended the Badger Trust’s Badger Awareness Course. One of Cherryfield’s regular sub-contractors reviews the course from an ecology consultant perspective –

Badger Trust – Badger Awareness Course Review by Dominique Rhoades BSc.

There are an estimated 400,000 Badgers, Meles meles, spread widely throughout the UK; as such they frequently come into conflict with humans, on roads, in gardens, and on development areas. They are also, historically hunted, and, there are still illegal cases of hunting.

British Badgers are protected under:

The Badgers Act 1992.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Countryside and Rights of Way (Crow) Act 2000.

The Conservation (Natural Habitats etc.) Regulations 1994.

As a working ecologist, it is important for me to have knowledge of Badgers, their ecology, conservation and mitigation methods as well as their legal protection, and my and developer’s obligations during the course of ecology work.

Why did I attend this course?

As someone new to general ecology work – I have specialised in Great Crested Newt and Dormice work up until now – I have been booking myself onto various courses over the last few years, to make sure I’m up to speed with all aspects of ecology work I might be asked to do!

To that end I’ve attended a superb course with The Barn Owl Trust, and now feel very confident with all aspects of Barn Owl ecology, surveying, conservation and law; the same is true of the Beaver course I attended through CIEEM led by Derek Gow a couple of years ago, and the Water Vole course I attended through the Mammal Society at Wildwood led by Hazel Ryan. Badgers were probably the area I knew least about and was very keen to expand on my limited knowledge and experience of them, other than that they can decimate a tray of dried meal worms in one sitting in my garden most nights!

Going in I was most interested in the law surrounding Badgers, and how my ecology work would relate to this, and when I would need to apply for licenses during my work.

Course Structure

This was a full day from 10am-4pm, largely indoors, with an hour or so outdoors towards the end of the day.

The time spent indoors talked about the law (as expected), but rather more extensively than I had anticipated; while most courses cover the legal rights and protection of species, the penalties incurred to offenders etc. this course talked at length about how to gather evidence against offenders, and how to give witness statements and give evidence in court. This section lasted most of the morning. We also covered methods used to illegally trap and bait badgers; how to help badgers trapped in them, and how to report such events.

In the afternoon, we moved onto field signs; notably recognising a sett, faeces, hair, bedding, which was covered in a presentation before going outside to test our newly acquired knowledge.

Was the course useful to me?

I found the time we spent outside very useful; learning to identify field signs such as setts, whether they are in use or old, faeces, bedding, scratch posts, and where to look for hairs etc. I already had basic knowledge of the laws surrounding badgers from my undergrad degree, but very little on ecology. I did not feel I gained the extra information I was looking for on the laws with regards (to licensing) for ecologists, which was mentioned on the Badger Trust website, but did learn a lot about how prevalent the illegal activity still is among hunters/diggers/baiters.

Although it was not why I attended the course, I found the information about all the different methods illegally used to bait and trap badgers, including advice on how to help trapped badgers safely (for you and them!) very interesting.

Would I recommend the course to others?

I would recommend the course to members of Badger Groups (there were a few on this course and seemed to get a lot out of it), and anyone concerned with illegal activity surrounding badgers, such as land owners and concerned citizens.

I would suggest to ecologists, who need a more rounded approach to understanding the law, as well as ecology, conservation and mitigation of badgers that this probably isn’t the course for them, as while it covers the law extensively, this meant the ecology part of the classroom section was rushed, and there was no talk of conservation and mitigation.

Summary

Craig Fellowes organised and presented this course very well; his years of knowledge made for interesting listening!

The objectives of the course were met very well; “To equip badger groups, and partners with the ability to recognise a wildlife crime, assist with investigations in relation to the issues, and criminal offences that badgers face in the UK. To identify an active badger sett, understand the term current use, understand the many signs, differences, and identify signs for other species using the similar habitat. To work towards a recognised body of competent persons, and expert witnesses.” though it would be useful to have the ecology, and conservation aspects covered too as a more rounded course.

I was surprised at the lack of information from The Badger Trust in the run up to the course; normally organisations send out an information pack the week before, confirming the date, time and location, with any special requirements on how to access the site, equipment needed etc. This wasn’t a problem, but I was walking into the course half expecting them to say they didn’t have my name down on their sheet! But all was well and it was an interesting day!

Badger Trust Resources – Ecology and behaviour

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