Excluding Badgers by Electric Fencing

Within Britain, badgers are particularly numerous in much of the south-west of England, and also in parts of the south-east and Wales. The Eurasian badger occupies a wide range of habitats. In Britain, numbers are highest in areas where there is a lot of old, well-grazed cattle pasture, but they also occupy mixed and arable farmland, forests, moor lands and coastal habitats such as sand dunes and cliffs. In addition, they also live in urban areas.

A large part of the badger’s diet consists of earthworms and grubs which they find in areas of short turf such as cattle pastures. In dry conditions during the summer, or in hard weather in winter, badgers may turn to gardens, Golf greens and fairways as substitute pastures, and excavate numerous holes in them as they dig for earthworms, leatherjackets, cockchafer grubs or other insect larvae. Sometimes the damage can be quite serious, with lengths of turf rolled back like carpets and left looking like giant brown and green Swiss rolls.

There are two methods of badger exclusion and both involve fencing. Firstly is the high tensile type that is highly ornate, involves burying the wire in to prevent badgers digging under and very expensive.

The next solution is to use an appropriate electric fence to give the badgers a sharp, but non-lethal “sting” on the nose if they try to get into a protected area. This can provide value-for-money for ceremonial gardens, putting greens, bowling greens and cricket pitches; for commercial planting schemes/shared allotments; and for large gardens. Electric fencing has been shown to be over 90% effective in excluding badgers in scientifically sanctioned trials.

There are two types of fencing applicable to excluding Badgers.

  1. Strained-wire fences consist of a series of electrified parallel conducting wires at varying heights above the ground. The conducting wires of strained-wire fences can be made from either polythene twine interwoven with steel strands (poly wire) or galvanised steel. The steel wire is a better conductor, far more durable and is cheaper but harder to work with.
  2. Electric netting fence consists of a woven net of poly twines containing electrical filaments. These are very easy to erect and move, very effective but are more intrusive and require larger energisers.

If both fence types are maintained properly they are equally effective. However, galvanised steel fences appear to be more effective than their poly wire counterparts.

Electric fencing systems are very light and simple to understand so lend themselves comfortably to DIY possibilities.

The strained-wire fence system is constructed of four electrified parallel conducting wires at heights of 10, 15, 20 and 30cm (4, 6, 8 and 12 inches) above the ground. The wires, which are all live, are held by adjustable plastic insulators supported on wooden stakes. A very viable alternative is to use plastic “tread-in” posts similar to those employed in horse yards as they provide both the posts and insulators in one item. The corners and ends are normally more robust wooden posts with insulators applied.

Electric netting fences vary in height and mesh size, and come in 50m rolls fitted with spiked posts at regular intervals and a clip at each end to join rolls together. Pegged guy ropes are also supplied with each roll to support the fences at the ends and at bends. These fences are very easy and quick to erect and dismantle but do require stronger energizers and require more maintenance to keep the vegetation away from the bottom strands.

The electric fence needs to be used between dusk and dawn for at least a few weeks (i.e. until each visiting badger has had a “sting” on the nose). The best guesstimate is that they will remain effective for at least 95% of badgers who have been stung (as exceedingly few like to receive a second sting). This means that after the initial few weeks, you can take the risk that the fence can be left in situ, but left non-electrified during the day and operated at night.

Electric fences must be powered by a specialised energizer (which gets its power from the mains or from a 12v battery). If you use a 12v battery, you will need two batteries, so you can charge one up on a trickle-charger, whilst the other one of electrifying the fence. An alternative is to use a solar panel.

When badgers encountered the fences for the first time their initial response is the same as would be expected for any unfamiliar object. In most instances, badgers approach the fences cautiously before investigating, usually with their noses, which are poorly insulated and highly innervated. Any individual touching an electrified fence with their nose will, therefore, receive a sharp shock and subsequently learn to avoid the area. Investigatory behaviour of this nature should therefore be encouraged and a number of approaches are being used to achieve this. The best solution to this is to attach specific bait caps to the fence. These have an absorbent centre that is then soaked in an attractant such as syrup or neat Apple cordial for the first week or so.

Badgers that have definitely been seen to touch the electrified wires generally responded by retreating immediately to the nearest harbourage. This response was most marked when the badgers concerned touched the electrified wires with their noses. Badgers do not appear overly stressed by the receipt of an electric shock and will move in the close vicinity of the fence without touching it again.