The badger and its sett is fully protected by the law under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. A badger sett is defined in the legislation as any structure or place which displays signs of current use by badgers. It is illegal:
It is however, possible to apply to Natural England for a licence to interfere with badgers or their setts in exceptional circumstances.
The legislation was brought in at a time when badger populations had been decimated by badger baiting, culling and sett destruction or closure. The animals have since thrived thanks to the vastly reduced human predation. Many are lost to road accidents every year. As numbers have grown we often hear landowners complain that they are not permitted to control (ie kill) badgers at will.
The legislation is increasingly difficult to enforce and successful prosecutions hard to bring. Cuts to public services have meant that police wildlife officers, local council ecology and Natural England are all severely understaffed. Volunteer groups like OBG have a role to play by keeping records that may help prove a setts is 'in current use' and helping report and investigate incidents. Our moto 'be forensic' and check setts often especially if in a vulnerable location.