West Cornwall Badger Group

Garden Damage by Badgers

Badgers frequently come into the edge of urban areas to forage, and as urban areas continue to expand, more and more badgers are living close to built-up areas. In gardens they may damage fences, dig up lawns for insect larvae (particularly leatherjackets), or turn over dustbins. Badgers also use latrines to mark their territories, and these may be dug in lawns or flowerbeds. A latrine consists of several pits about 15 centimetres deep, some of which will contain faeces. The area of ground surrounding a latrine is frequently scraped up. However, it is unlikely that badgers digging in gardens would ever be considered to be causing serious economic damage for which a licence to kill or take badgers would be granted.

Minimising damage to gardens is very difficult; badgers are powerful animals that can break or dig under most conventional fencing and can climb surprisingly well. A fence that will keep out a badger needs to be strong, usually chain link, and 125 centimetres or more high. Thus it should be dug at least 30 centimetres (and preferably 50 centimetres) into the ground and with a piece at the bottom set at right angles facing outwards from the garden for a distance of about 50 centimetres underground. Alternatively, bending the bottom of a chain- link fence outward and downward at an angle of 45' may deter some badgers, but is unlikely to keep out a determined animal. Gateways and other points of entry need to be secure enough to stop a badger squeezing through or climbing over or under. Clearly such a fence is highly expensive to provide and maintain, and is impracticable in most situations.

Alternative remedies are:

a. Digging in lawns and problems caused by latrines are largely seasonal. Latrines are most conspicuous in the spring and to a lesser extent in the autumn. Similarly, digging lawns for leatherjackets and other grubs is most pronounced in the late autumn and early spring. Since these forms of damage are confined to certain limited periods of the year, many gardeners find it easier to tolerate the nuisance rather than try to exclude badgers from their garden. If however some form of action is necessary, the application of an appropriate insecticide or vermicide will remove the insects or earthworms that are attracting the badgers to the lawn. However, such treatment will deny this food source to birds and other animals as well as badgers. Also, the removal of the invertebrate fauna from the soil will, in the longer-term, result in the degradation of the soil structure and the reduction of nutrient cycling. Alternatively, the use of commercial mammalian repellents may have psychological benefit for the householder, although their value in deterring badgers from entering gardens is uncertain. Remember that 'pet' repellents do not necessarily have legal approval or clearance for use against badgers.

b. Damage to gardens is often the result of food shortages, particularly in hot dry summers when badgers may have difficulty finding enough food. One remedy may be to feed the badgers until the hot dry spell finishes, although this may sometimes aggravate the problem.

c. If badgers raid dustbins frequently, the lid should be secured with an expanding strap with a hook at each end. These are readily available from bicycle and car accessory shops. Just put the strap through the handle on the lid and secure the two books to the handles on the dustbin. This usually stops all but the most persistent badger from rifling your dustbin, and removing this food source (and others e.g. do not leave out food for the birds except in inaccessible feeders and do not put scraps on the compost heap) should also reduce the badger activity in your garden, thereby also minimising the damage to lawns and fences.

d. Damage to wooden or netting fences will recur if the fences are repaired. Badgers are creatures of habit and will continue to use traditional pathways. The easiest course of action is to accept that badgers will try to use an established path. Either leave a gap in the fence or provide a badger gate. When a garden has been fenced to contain a pet dog, this approach is rarely feasible, since a large hole in the fence or a badger gate will allow all but the larger breeds of dog to escape. However, a length of pipe about 22 centimetres in diameter set in the fence on the badgers path will allow the badgers free access at night and still retain medium to large dogs during the day.

e. In the past, to try to prevent badgers entering a garden where damage had occurred, rags or ropes soaked in repellents such as creosote or diesel fuel were hung across entrance points. However, experience showed that these rarely worked, and the use of these substances is also now illegal for discouraging badgers.

f. Possibly the only realistic way to deter badgers from entering gardens is to use a small electric fence. This may sound like a major undertaking, but it is reasonably simple and much cheaper than building a more permanent fence. It also has the advantage of being removable, so that it only needs to be used at those times of the year when badgers are being particularly troublesome. An electric fence can be used to prevent badgers entering the whole garden, in which case a long fence across all possible points of entry must be provided. Alternatively, an electric fence can be used to protect a vegetable or fruit garden, or an allotment.

The above text is mainly from the booklet 'Problems with Badgers?' (ISBN 0 901098 04 3).
Published by the RSPCA Wildlife Department, Causeway, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 1HG

Please do remember that:

  • Badgers are wild animals, and unpredictable.
  • Drastic measures could make things worse in the long run.
  • Every situation tends to be different, so each problem needs to be looked at carefully.
  • Often simply being patient may turn out to be the best answer.
  • Badgers are a protected species under English law, and it is therefore advisable to seek suitable advice on how to deal with any badger related problems.

Further Information:

A PDF version of the Badger Trust's new Badgers in Your Garden Booklet booklet can be downloaded from the Badger Trust web site.

Natural England Technical Information Note TIN027 gives advice on the use of electric fencing to deter badgers. Download a copy from the Natural England website.