THOUSANDS of pounds are to be spent relocating hundreds of residents living in the path of the new Borders Railway – but the answer isn’t as black and white as you may think.
Several badger setts have been identified by wildlife experts along the 35-mile route and a £10,000 pot has been set aside to provide the nocturnal hunters with alternative accommodation due to the threat the works pose to their habitat.
Artificial setts are to be created in order to move them to safety, which is a legal requirement surrounding the protected carnivores.
A full-time badger expert has now been drafted in to oversee the project which will see identical but roomier setts, comprising numerous chambers and tunnels, constructed and then covered in soil up to a metre deep to hide them from view.
Tasty treats will be used to encourage the animals to visit the new setts, and once the entire clan has moved in access to their previous home will be blocked.
Network Rail, in conjunction with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), is also providing alternative nesting spots for owls and has plans in place to limit the impact on other species along the route, such as bats and otters.
SNH licensing manager Ben Ross said: “Each sett can vary in size and the number of badgers it contains so depending on factors such as these, each artificial sett could cost between £200-£300 and £1000 to construct.
“Relocations such as this are quite common when large capital projects are being built. It basically involves digging a large hole and then constructing a series of tunnels and chambers using railway sleepers and large pipes.
“Badgers are creatures of habit and use the same paths to get about at night so the likelihood is that if you build a new sett, they will inevitably investigate it.
“You’d think that they would reject the idea and look to return to their own original sett, but if the sett is built correctly and offers more room, then the badgers seem very happy to take up residence.”
Under laws protecting badgers, work cannot be carried out within 30 metres of a known sett and approval has to be gained from SNH for its removal.
A Network Rail spokesman said: “We are committed to delivering the new railway with the minimum of disturbance to wildlife along the line of route.
“We have plans in place for a range of environmental factors, including the temporary rehoming of badgers, and are liaising with Scottish Natural Heritage to make sure we work around important habitats and protected species or plants as sensitively as possible.”
The £300 million scheme is the largest rail reopening project in modern UK history and the line is due to open in summer 2015.
Seven new stations are being created at Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange, Gorebridge, Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank.
In 2006, we revealed £320,000 was spent on 11,000 metres of badger fencing along the Capital’s tram line.
Underground overground, badgering free
Badgers are a large and instantly recognisable member of the weasel family and are the UK’s largest canrivore.
There are thought to be approximately 288,000 badgers in the UK, but an estimated 45,000 are killed in road accidents every year. They are a secretive and nocturnal animal, with a distinctive black-and-white striped face, which breeds in winter and gives birth in February.
Each night when they emerge from their setts they scent where worms will be emerging from the soil.
Their supposed ferocity has led to the sport of badger baiting in which they are dug out to have dogs set on them. If convicted, badger baiters may face a up to six months in jail.