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Badger stool containing bait marking pellets.  Hall 2013.

Following on from the Stage 1 Survey further information about the social groupings (or clans) present on site such as which clan uses which setts.  This information can be very important in informing any subsequent licence application or mitigation plan.

For example a wind farm development site has a number of setts present.  Two are fairly close to each other and following micro-siting of the turbines and road infrastructure one needs to be excluded to avoid any harm to badgers.

Both setts are well excavated and show current signs of use.  Both could be main setts which is an important assessment because any main sett lost through development must be replaced with an artifical sett resulting in a large additional cost to the development.  This can be avoided if the setts are shown to be used by the same clan as it shows that any excluded badgers have another sett to move into.

As the setts are quite close together it is thought possible that they belong to the same social group.  Although the Stage 1 Survey identified several movement corridors between the setts the evidence is not conclusive enough to inform an assessment that the setts are used by the same clan.

A solution to this ambiguity is to carry out a bait marking survey.  The bait marking survey involves feeding the badgers with a peanut and syrup mix which include indigestible coloured plastic pellets.  These pellets cause no harm to the badgers and pass through the gut and are found deposited in latrine sites.  Different colours can be fed to the badgers at each sett making it easy to identify where a badger moves around its territory by surveying the latrine sites for the coloured markers.

The feeding goes of for at least five days at which point surveys start to be conducted.  A search is made of the latrine sites identified in the Stage 1 Survey and a note is taken of the colour of pellet or pellets in each latrine.  Should both colours be found in latrine sites close to a sett it is likely to mean that the setts are likely to be linked and therefore no artifical sett is required.  The survey can take up to 20 days to identify spacial groupings of badgers and can be expensive due to the labour costs invovled.

It’s worth noting that some boundary latrine sites can be used by badgers from both setts and the presence of both coloured pellets here is expected.

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