Wildlife Crime in Review

Updated: Apr 25

One of the ways that the Badger Trust are tackling crimes against badgers is through education, and supporting groups, individuals and most importantly the enforcement agencies, in the main the police.

Men with dog digging out a badger set

Badger Trust has recently appointed me as the ‘wildlife crime coordinator’ and I shall be working closer with badger groups, work closer with the police, to support them, and ensure effective investigation where ever possible. Crimes against badger investigations are complex and can be very lengthy, with difficulties identifying suspects, and proving a badger sett is active, and in current use.

As a retired police officer with 34 years dealing with wildlife crimes I bring a wealth of experience in dealing with a broad range of wildlife crimes, delivered training to police staff since 1997, and i started delivering training the Badger Crime Awareness courses in 2016. So far, the courses have been delivered to 20 police forces and some badger groups, with plans to deliver to a further 15 to 20 forces in the next 12 months. The police courses are funded by commitments of support from the Badger Trust and Naturewatch Foundation. Combining these two roles will definitely benefit Badgers, it will enhance the protection they deserve and will improve prosecutions, and clearly sends a message.

Since 1984 and dealing with my first badger crime investigation I have seen a number of changes, changes to legislation, changes in the categories of persecution that badgers face, changes in tactics, changes in the patterns, and changes in policing. In 1984 there were no wildlife crime officers, badger persecution was really about digging and baiting, and in the main was always on Sundays. Baiting was certainly more common in the 80s with organised fights being a regular occurrence, and whilst that still happens today, baiting occurs more on-site near the setts.

Badger caught in wire noose trap

Some of the changes we have seen are persecution types, and the biggest threat today is that of ‘sett blocking’, a problem across the UK, and since sett blocking was banned in 2005. Tactics have changed, and we see diggers and baiters out any time or day of the week, we see badgers and ‘development’ conflicting more and more, we see individuals using the ‘cull’ as an excuse to control badgers outside of the licensed zones, and we see the use of social media in some cases, to promote these cruel and horrific pastimes.

One thing that has not really changed is the sadistic, and cruel individuals that love inflicting suffering on defenceless animals, and the lengths that some of these will go to achieve their thrills. Nothing surprises you anymore after seeing so much. One thing that has changed, and dramatically, is the ability for the Police and RSPCA to investigate effectively, work with the many partners, and understand the importance of working with badger groups.

The fight against badger persecution is not just for the enforcement agencies; we all have a part to play.

Craig Fellowes

Crime & Training Coordinator, Badger Trust