BADGER WEEK BLOG: Species Protection Coordinator Q&A

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As part of Scottish Badger Week, we're highlighting the issues faced by badgers in Scotland today. Badgers are under threat from development (this includes loss of habitat, loss of connectivity and habitat fragmentation), unlicensed agricultural and forestry operations, badger baiting (in its various forms) and being killed on the roads (with peak road deaths during March/April). It's the job of our Species Protection Coordinator, Emily Platt, to be the first point of contact for such issues and to coordinate our dedicated network of volunteers to help out as and when issues arise. We caught up with Emily to tell us more about her role and how people can help.

What is a Species Protection Co-ordinator?

My role covers just about everything and anything badger related; from answering queries from members of the public, liaising with agencies like Police Scotland and the SSPCA, to maintaining a variety of spreadsheets, I’ve had to wear a huge number of hats!

I’m mainly desk based, so any queries involving a visit by a badger worker are organised and orchestrated by myself. I have to have a good knowledge of lots of different aspects of development, forestry, licencing, and crime (to name a few) in order to provide the best advice, or be able to look into a concern someone may have. Fundamentally it’s about educating and advising – badgers are a protected species due to the levels of persecution they face; from people actively seeking to hurt them in practises such as baiting and lamping, development on small and large scales that encroach on their habitat and potentially bury them alive, to the high numbers of road casualties we see around the country. They’re by no means rare and pretty resilient, but they face a number of threats that could heavily impact their population on a local level.

So what does a typical day involve?

It can be very dependent on the season – during the spring and autumn I’m incredibly busy! Any records that have been sent in via our website of road casualties and setts get recorded onto a spreadsheet; in the case of road casualties we can use this information to work out the presence of badgers in an area we may not have any sett records for, and also acts as an indication for roads that may need future mitigation if we get lots of new casualties being reported.

There may be an enquiry from a member of public that has seen some building or forestry work being undertaken in an area with a known badger sett – there is then a process of finding out where the works are in relation to the sett, whether the workers are aware of the sett, and whether the correct licences are in place for the work to be carried out, if within a certain distance of the sett. As badgers and their setts are protected by law, it is illegal to disturb or damage a sett, either wilfully or otherwise, unless the correct licences have been obtained.

We often work alongside Police Scotland, so there may be a case the Police are investigating and require an experienced badger worker to attend; I’ll often liaise with the Wildlife Crime Officers to find out what has happened, and organise someone to attend. This then gets added to our crime and incidents list, which helps us to see the extent of badger crimes around the country.

There’s then other enquiries in regards to badgers in residential areas, the most common being badgers digging up lawns; usually it’s short lived, and will be to dig up earthworms and other invertebrates. Some days I can get everything thrown at me, other days can be a bit slower paced, and gives me time to update all the necessary records!

What’s the most common enquiry you get?

Definitely badgers in gardens – we’ve even created a separate page on our website dedicated to it here! For most people this is the first time they’ve experienced a badger so close, so often it’s people just wanting general advice. It’s normal for badgers to root around in lawns and cause small ‘snuffle holes’. This damage is normally seasonal and badgers tend to move on of their own accord with time. Occasionally badgers will dig under outbuildings, and this will require a bit more information. 

How can I help?

There’s a number of ways you can get involved; becoming a member is a huge help, and your support allows us to continue educating and informing people around Scotland. We also encourage our members to become actively involved in the work we do, through undertaking surveys and monitoring local setts.

You can record your sightings through the website – road casualties, live sightings, and setts are all important for our records, and helps us assess the population on a local and national level. Sometimes it can even alert us to any problems, such as a disturbed sett.

If you’ve seen anything suspicious, or are worried about a local sett, you can contact 101 and ask to speak to the Wildlife Crime Officer, getting an incident report number, and let us know; we try to keep a record of all badger related incidences around the country, to monitor levels and determine trends.

How do we get in touch with you?

If there’s anything you’re not sure of, or have any questions, just get in touch with me via speciesprotection@scottishbadgers.org.uk or call 07866 844 232.

For more information on Scottish Badger Week, please visit our dedicated page.

Contacts:

For issues related to badger crime, legislation, planning, mitigation, data searches and to log badger records:

Available between 09:00 and 17:00 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday ONLY

Species Protection Co-ordinator

T: 07866 844232

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For matters relating to our Badgers in the Landscape - Community Building for Wildlife project:

Project Officer

T: 07565 813401

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For training, web presence and general enquiries:

T: 07376 636341 or 07792 142446

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Sponsors:

Scottish Badgers (SCIO) Charity Number SCO34297.