Badgers are being moved off the river bank at Mepal to save important flood defences
- Credit: Archant
Badgers have been moved out of their setts at Mepal after fears their river bank burrowing could destroy important flood defences.
The animals, which are a protected species, are being encouraged to move further down the river to established setts about two miles away at either Coveney or six miles away at Pymoor.
The work sparked fears from a local dog walker who saw men fixing steel mesh gates over the burrow entrances at South Level Barrier Bank and thought they were illegally baiting so called police.
But the Environment Agency confirmed they were in charge of the licensed project and it was a carefully controlled humane badger gating exercise.
“It is intended to persuade them to move away from this important flood defence as their burrowing activity can potentially damage the strength of the flood bank or undermine the maintenance track,” a spokesman said.
“We have the ability to displace badgers under licence from Natural England where we know that there is an area available for them to move to. “This displacement work takes place outside the badger breeding season (January to March) when there may be dependent young in the setts and it is done by an accredited expert in badger ecology.”
The one-way gates allow badgers out of the sett, but prevent them from returning, which means they have to relocate.
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The spokesman said: “We have created two new purpose-built badger setts away from the South Level Barrier Bank for them to move into and indications are that they have been making themselves at home in these.”
“We are very careful to ensure they do not come to harm whenever we undertake any works.”
The problem sett is on the river bank about two miles east from the Three Pickerels pub in Mepal.
The gating exercise comes in a week when fox hunting supporter Andrea Leadson controversially said she is likely to increase badger culling in one of her first major acts as Environment Secretary.
She says it is to control TB in cattle despite leading scientists’ claims that it does not work.
According to a report by the BBC, the culls are to be expanded into north and south Devon, north Cornwall, west Dorset and south Herefordshire.
Culls, in which the badgers are shot, already take place in Dorset, Gloucestershire and Somerset.
David Bowles, RSPCA assistant director of public affairs, said: “We are saddened but unsurprised at the restart of the badger culls, but to extend the number of cull areas further is alarming – especially when the last three years of culls have been such a failure.
“This action is flying in the face of public and scientific opinion.”