Identifying badger activity

While it may not be possible to stop badgers gaining access to your pasture, it is recommended that you restrict cattle access to high risk areas such as badger setts and latrines, which could contain infectious material. This guide aims to help you identify badger activity on your farm.

Badger biosecurity factsheets

Badger setts

Badgers reside in a network of tunnels and chambers called a sett. Badger social groups normally have one main sett that is in use all year round, and several other setts that are not always active and may not be used at all times of the year. A badger sett can have any number of entrance holes. A badger hole is generally the shape of a D on its side, as opposed to circular, and does not narrow inside the entrance, unlike rabbit holes. There are several signs a sett may be active:

  • Smooth polished sides around any entrance holes from repeated use;
  • Sometimes evidence of fresh bedding, for example grass, near the sett entrance;
  • Freshly excavated soil heaps around entrance holes;
  • Evidence of runs radiating out from entrance holes;
  • Signs of trampling and/or footprints at entrance holes and down into sett

Badger runs and prints

Badgers will often use the same path to go between places of importance within their territory, such as between setts, latrines and food sources. Badgers have short legs and travel low to the ground, so their runs are often well defined from frequent use.

If badgers can get a foothold they will readily climb. You can see where the moss has been worn away on the wall in the image below from badgers climbing over, and demolishing part of the wall in the process.

A badger print is fairly easy to recognise. Badgers have five digits in front of a large kidney-shaped pad on each foot. The fifth digit is sometimes tucked in and does not always appear in the badger print.

Other signs of badger activity

Badgers are omnivores and eat a vast and varied range of foods, including fruit, cereals, larger insects and small mammals. They are mainly foragers rather than hunters, although they may occasionally eat hedgehogs, ground nesting birds eggs, reptiles and amphibians. However, earthworms make up a significant part of a badgers diet and rooting can sometimes be seen at grazing.

Badgers sometimes use tree trunks, fence posts or other suitable objects as scratching posts. Sometimes smoothed or polished areas can be seen on the ground or on fallen tree stumps from frequent use.