COVID-19 advice for Badger Groups
Updated 3 February 2021
The Badger Trust has been working to clarify the situation for groups wishing to continue rescuing badgers. The following information is for both groups that are charities and those that are not.
The NCVO has stated the following;
The government has said people can still go to workplaces if they cannot work from home. This includes if you need to go somewhere to volunteer. However, this should only be the case if you cannot volunteer from home. If you’re asking people to go somewhere to volunteer:
consider if the activity can be completed at home or temporarily stopped
advise people to stay at least two metres – about three steps – away from others
hand washing facilities should be provided
make sure volunteers know they should self-isolate if they, or someone in their household becomes unwell
make sure volunteers don’t feel pressured to continue if they want to stop volunteering
consider how volunteers travel to your organisation
Vets and badger rescue
We are aware that veterinary practices are an essential service, but are treating largely on an emergency or urgent basis only. The RSPCA are not taking emergency calls overnight and are likely to be overstretched with domestic animals. CIEEEM has also stated the following:
"Please note that health and safety or animal welfare considerations
are justifiable reasons for travel."
It is our view that, provided groups have reviewed risk assessments and safe working protocols, badger rescue by groups can continue.
However, we would like to reiterate that we do not expect groups to carry out rescues at this time; this is a decision for your own group. We only ask that you let us know if you are unable to carry out this function so that we know to contact another organisation if necessary.
We advise speaking to regularly-used vets or wildlife hospitals in advance of any call-out to ensure that they are still able to safely treat badgers under current guidance / protocols, and that you are aware of their current protective procedures. Many of us are used to providing support to less experienced vets in handling badgers, this may not be possible at this time.
Reviewing Risk – things to consider
In reviewing risk, you may wish to consider the following (if you have not already done so):
COVID-19 can be a severe illness and even result in death, particularly in vulnerable groups. These include:
anyone who is over 70
has an underlying health condition
Volunteers who are considered to be in a vulnerable group should not attend rescues.
If applicable, is the landowner, or person responsible for the land or for giving permission, happy for you to be on the land in the current crisis?
If applicable, ask householders if they are in self-isolation when taking the call. Ask any householders to remain inside if possible during a garden rescue, or ask them to return inside as soon as possible.
Normal PPE such as gloves and mask should be used when handling wildlife, but we also suggest disinfecting cages before handling them or putting them back in your vehicle, or ask the vet to do so for you. It may be worth reviewing the equipment you would ordinarily carry.
Ensure that members of the public are reminded (ideally over the phone before attending) that you will need them to remain at least 2m from you in any emergency situation, even if the badger is already safely caged.
Ensure that any onlookers from the public remain at least 10 metres away and be upwind from the work that is ongoing with the animal.
Consider whether/how you can safely work with one other volunteer – we advise that you should make every effort to avoid this. Is there another group member who could manage alone, or can you attend with a member of your household? Is the site difficult to access safely alone?
Ensure that you use gloves and wash (if possible) or sanitise your hands thoroughly before travelling from the scene. Place used gloves and masks in a bin bag, double bag and dispose of them safely - you could ask if the vet will incinerate them for you.
If you use gauntlets, wear them over vinyl type gloves and bag them for thorough cleaning.
Ensure that you wash your hands as soon as you return home. Hand sanitiser (>60% alcohol) should be kept in the vehicle and used regularly, especially before touching the steering wheel.
Ensure that you wash your hands as soon as you return home.
Follow all other guidance on social distancing.
If you do not feel confident that you are effectively managing the risk, stop and reassess.
Ensure that you have an agreed protocol with the vet/rehab centre, prior to handover. This should involve minimal personal contact and this must remain at 2m distance – your vet may ask you to wear additional PPE (e.g. mask etc) in order to help in badger handling. It may be worth checking with all volunteers what they are comfortable with doing in advance.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and Wildlife Health Specialist Group have highlighted the risk of transmitting SARs-CoV-2 to wild mammals and have assessed mustelids (and therefore badgers) to be at risk. As a result we have added the following recommendations to our guidance, relating to both badger rescue and survey and monitoring;
If you or anyone you live with have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 or have COVID-19 symptoms, you should follow NHS advice on self isolation and avoid working with or surveying for badgers for 14 days after symptoms begin (and if fever continues beyond this, at least three days after symptoms of fever have resolved). In the case of an asymptomatic infection, avoid working with wild mammals for 2 weeks after the last positive test date. N.B. This period differs from current NHS guidance.
Avoid touching your face or mask, and if contact occurs, change/disinfect your hands/gloves.
Limit the number of volunteers who actually handle or come into close contact (within 2 metres) with an animal.
Limit the number of volunteers or staff involved in the animal’s treatment, rehabilitation and release as much as possible.
Where possible, minimise the amount of time volunteers are in close or direct contact with the badger.
Wear clean, dedicated clothing (or disposable coveralls) that can be removed and properly cleaned immediately after working with badgers. If working indirectly (e.g. >2m or in a confined space enclosed space) wear a face mask or covering, and ensure that the space is well ventilated.
Wear a face mask or covering when handling/transporting badgers and if you can, open a window.
Wash your hands with soap and water and/or apply hand sanitiser (>60% alcohol content) before and after handling wild mammals.
Keep animals separate from as much as possible capturing and handling and transporting (except where siblings).
Clean and disinfect all reusable equipment that may come into contact with badgers (e.g. cages, graspers, hot water bottles) after a rescue and use a disinfectant which is effective against SARS-CoV-2 (e.g. Safe4 Disinfectant Cleaner)
Survey and Monitoring
The government has provided guidance for surveyors that can be found here
Avoid going within 2 metres of known or potential setts, where possible.
Keep the time you spend in close proximity to setts or potential setts to a minimum
Limit the number of people that come into close proximity to setts or potential setts
Avoid touching or looking though spoil for badger hairs unless it is necessary for the purposes of proving a sett is active following a badger crime under investigation. If this is required, you should wear a mask and clean gloves, ensuring that you use hand sanitiser (>60% alcohol content) or wash hands before and after doing so.
Clean and disinfect all reusable field gear and equipment that may come into contact with badgers (e.g. trail cameras) prior to starting the work and after each use with a suitable disinfectant.
Proposed guidance for the public
The Badger Trust has produced guidance for the public and those who regularly feed badgers in their garden.
Travel letters and police
We are aware that some organisations are issuing ‘travel letters’ for volunteers to carry and whilst we considered producing something for groups, we felt that it would be more appropriate for each organisation to produce their own if they so wished. However, we have provided an example letter that may give you an idea of what could be included. Example Travel Letter can be downloaded here.
Discussions with police officers also suggest that, if not called out by the police in the first instance, best practice in the current situation is to
report the incident via 101 or online to the police control rooms
obtain an incident or reference number before going out
However, it’s understood that a delay in responding to an incident should be avoided; so if the volunteer or another member of the group makes contact with the police as soon as is practicable to log an incident, this would be fine.
Thank you all for your hard work and dedication, particularly in such a difficult period. Volunteering is so important, both for us and for badgers.
Best wishes and stay safe,
Further information which may be helpful during this period can be found here:
We will support you by keeping you updated here
Badger Sett Monitoring
The government allows one period of exercise per day. Any exercise as an individual or group of two in a household should be in the vicinity of your home only and we may see more explicit guidelines on this in the coming days.
Any time spent outside the house should be minimised. Therefore, sett checking should only be carried out as part of your daily exercise e.g. a dog walk or run if the sett is within close ‘walking’ distance.
You should not go out specifically to check setts at this time.
You may also only exercise with members of your household, or alone. If you are alone, please take the usual necessary precautions for walking alone – ensure that a family member or buddy knows the route, location and when you should arrive home. There is no guidance on time period but we would expect that exercise should take no more than an hour and preferably less.
There is obvious concern that allowing people to drive into the countryside to exercise could lead to community spread in rural areas.
How to report incidents
It is possible that whilst responsible people are observing the rules, those that are not and do not follow the law in ordinary times will take advantage of this period to bait or dig badgers.
Should you come across an incident then of course please report it to the police (get a log number) and record it in all the usual ways, but be aware that the police may be unable to respond in the normal fashion.
Whilst some forces have specific teams to look at these types of incidents, it is up to each individual force to decide how they deal with matters.
Please continue to report incidents through our website, and we will do what we can to help, looking at how we can change any processes to do so.
You can still ring the police to report a crime, especially if it is still in progress. You can do this anonymously if you are concerned that you may be questioned as to how you came across it.
We are also considering what advice we can provide to police control rooms during this period and ensuring the police are aware that groups will be unable to respond to the usual call outs.
Letter from Badger Trust Chair
A week is a long time in politics, but it’s a very short time in epidemiology. The Coronavirus COVID-19 ( Sars-CoV-2) virus has moved incredibly fast and the world has been fighting to catch up. First of all, I hope everyone in the badger community is staying safe and well and supporting each other as always.
All our lives are looking very different at the moment – yesterday was the first day of home school for my 3 children (ages 3, 6 and 8) and it was certainly an experience, one I’m likely to repeat for some time to come. When it was quiet and they were all in bed, I had a chance to reflect on what all this now means for badgers.
What this could mean for you and your group
Wildlife has been emboldened in some places, venturing into towns where people are no longer on the streets. I’m concerned that badgers may be the victim of just as much crime, if not more, when some individuals who make a habit of flouting the law take advantage of the even greater absence of oversight.
I understand that there will be members of groups who will want to carry on despite the latest government instruction and others who will already have decided that they cannot for the time being. I can only hope that we will not be ‘on lockdown’ when wounded badger patrols are needed.
What will it mean for the badger cull?
Perhaps the cull licences will be affected, it will be difficult to carry out under the current circumstances.
How we can help you and each other
Badger Trust is working on an emergency strategy to take us through the next few months. We are reviewing our current plans and considering what we can do to keep in contact with you and our supporters. What is important now is to keep our community together; keep talking, keep sharing, and keep working to support badgers where we can.
Keeping active and connected – a new way
We are putting together activities for adults and children alike and we’ll be in touch about that in the coming days – you may be able to help. We want Badger Trust to be a community hub for people to visit, to keep in touch with each other and to stay involved with badgers, even under the current circumstances.
There are things that you can continue to do but most of all, keep safe.
With kind regards,
Chair of Badger Trust