Like rural foxes, badgers are becoming more and more tolerant of us, frequently venturing into our gardens in search of easy pickings. This is good news for badger lovers but it does have its drawbacks: with their powerful front legs and sharp claws they can destroy a lawn or compost heap in minutes.
So while none of us want to harm them, what can be done to help prevent such destructive behaviour?
Read our wildlife watch - the badger
Why do badgers dig in gardens?
Badgers are omnivorous and will eat a wide variety of foodstuffs, including earthworms, insect larvae, plant bulbs, and fruit and vegetables. When they dig holes in your garden or compost heap they are normally looking for food.
Your closely cropped lawn makes an ideal environment for them to find – and dig for – insect larvae including cockchafer, cutworm and leatherjackets. I’ve also had problems with badgers digging up a lawn to get at an underground bees’ nest.
Other common sources of food that will attract them include spilled bird food, especially peanuts, which they love.
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What can I do to deter them?
Badgers are a protected species, so you must not trap, harm or otherwise interfere with them or their setts (the name for the underground network of tunnels they live in). However, there are a number of things you can do to try and prevent them damaging your garden.
Removing potential food sources is the easiest course of action. This means not allowing spilled bird seed to accumulate on the floor or other places that a badger could reach.
A well-aerated and drained lawn that is free of moss helps too, providing less than ideal conditions for insect larvae to live.
If the badgers are digging in one spot in your lawn you can try firmly pegging some chicken wire over the affected area. The grass will grow through it, enabling you to mow over the area but the badgers will be put off as they hate the feel of wire getting tangled in their claws.
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Some people report successfully deterring them using human urine, which is easy enough to apply if you’re a man and your garden isn’t overlooked. If it is, or you aren’t, you might want to collect it off-site, as it were…
Others suggest scattering chopped Scotch Bonnet chillis over the affected area. If you do this, it is wise to apply the urine before chopping the chillis. (Don’t ask me how I worked that one out.)
Can I fence them out?
Probably not. Badgers are incredibly strong and will rip through most wire fencing with ease. An electric fence can be a very effective way of deterring badgers without harming them but you’ll need to seek specialist advice on installing one as it can be expensive to buy and tricky to set up.
I love to watch them but can’t stand the damage they do
You could try feeding the badgers in a controlled area for them to enjoy in a non-destructive way, effectively sidestepping the problem. Peanuts always go down very well and a steady supply on the patio will enable you to enjoy watching them without risking your lawn.
Badgers have quite poor vision, so you should be able to sit quietly and watch them in the evenings without disturbing them. However, they’ve got great hearing so you will need to keep quiet.
Be aware though: once you’ve started feeding them you’ll have to maintain it, otherwise they’ll learn that your garden is a great source of food and if you don’t provide it they’ll forage for it themselves.
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They are using my garden as a toilet!
Sometimes, for reasons we don’t understand, badgers will dig a shallow scrape in one area and use it as a toilet, returning night after night to do so. There isn’t a lot you can do about this other than be grateful that the hole they dig for a toilet is much smaller than the one they dig when they’re searching for food.
I think the problem is bigger than foraging
A displaced badger or badgers will occasionally choose to dig a new sett in your garden. This is a much more serious problem and you should seek help and advice immediately from the Badger Trust.
To find out more about wildlife and wildlife gardening in general please visit our wildlife section.
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