Badger - Meles meles

Badgers as a species do little harm to cereal crops and other animals in Ireland, they are effective pest controllers as they reduce rodent numbers and destroy wasp nests. They have no natural predator in Ireland with man still causing the highest number of badger kills.

Illegal badger persecution still occurs in some areas where sett exists are blocked; smoke or dogs are released into the entrance forcing the badger to come to the surface where they are killed.
Accidental road kills account for a large number of badger deaths each year with the same locations seeing regular collisions with traffic as the badger will use the same pathway to cross roads in its territories, the numbers of badger road kills increase in the spring as this is the time that young badgers leave the sett to establish new territories.

Badger Crimes

Badgers are protected by law in the Republic of Ireland under the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2012.
They are also protected under the Bern Convention (Appendix III)

Unless authorised to do so under a valid licence/permission/derogation granted by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2012 it is unlawful to:-

  • Hunt or kill (or attempt to do so) a badger otherwise than under and in accordance with a permission or licence granted by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
  • Wilfully interfere with or destroy a badger sett (its breeding and resting place)
  • Possess a badger, whether alive or dead, or any part, product or derivative thereof other than one lawfully taken pursuant to the Wildlife Acts
  • Sell, keep or offer for sale, or engage in taxidermy in respect of a badger or any parts, products or derivatives thereof other that by a licensed wildlife dealer with a lawfully acquired specimen


Badger Baiting which involves the digging of badgers from their setts to be fought and killed by dogs is still happening today in every county in Ireland. Sometimes badgers are taken away from their setts to be abused at more discreet locations.

It is a callous and brutal activity practised by a loose network of unscrupulous people who, for obvious reasons, are very secretive about what they do.


Badgers are often trapped illegally with wire snares. Even when they are the unintended target the consequences for them can be fatal. The snare lodges around the neck and they may even get a front leg through as well but all too often they are snared around the abdomen just in front of the pelvis.

A badger is a strong animal and will put up a huge struggle when snared, often lasting for days until it dies from injury and exhaustion.


A badger’s sett is its underground home which is shared with other members of a social group. It is the place where they breed, rest and spend most of their lifetime. Any wilful interference or damage to a sett is an offence under the Wildlife Acts.

Unfortunately most badger persecution happens at or near their setts usually in the form of digging out and can be recognised by the signs of excavations and spade marks.
In most cases badger diggers will attempt to cover their tracks. Pits dug into the sett to get at the badgers will be carefully infilled and covered with leaf litter to make everything look normal. If the loose soil is removed from these pits it will often reveal much damage to the sett and sometimes the corpse of a badger.

Occasionally people who believe badgers can cause damage or are a threat to livestock will attempt to get rid of them by destroying their sett with large earth moving equipment or by pumping farmyard slurry into it.


Badgers and many other animals are susceptible to TB infection. They are considered by many to be the main vector in the spread of the disease to cattle. However, this is hotly disputed by others and the controversy is likely to continue for some time.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under licence from the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht removes approximate 6,000 badgers annually as part of its bovine TB strategy. The licence allows the use of a specially approved snare to capture the badger. The snare is designed to hold, prevent strangulation and minimise stress to the animal until the operator arrives and dispatches it humanely.

Recording evidence at the Crime Scene

Assessing whether a criminal offence has taken place may not always be straight forward and other possibilities such as natural deaths, predation and legal hunting should be considered.

If you come across a wildlife crime scene or a dead bird or object that may be related to a wildlife crime, every piece of information is – or might be – important, but it needs to be recorded properly and accurately for the authorities to have a chance of prosecuting an offender.

Reporting a badger crime

To report suspected illegal badger activity contact the National Parks & Wildlife Service
Tel: 01-888 3242 or LoCall 1890 383 000

For a pdf of contact numbers for your local NPWS Conservation Ranger click HERE

If you can’t reach NPWS personnel call An Garda Síochána:

If the crime is in progress or about to happen, or if the offender is still at the scene or has just left call 999 or 112

If the event is finished then either call your local Garda Station (Garda Stations Directory) or the Garda Confidential Telephone Number 1800 666 111

[Although it will assist the NPWS and Gardaí if you provide as much information as possible, you do not have to give your name if you ring to report an incident.]

If the badger is alive and is injured, also call a wildlife rehabilitator/vet from the contacts page of Irish Wildlife Matters Irish Wildlife Matters
If you witness any crime involving a badger please also contact Badgerwatch Ireland
For badger crimes in Northern Ireland contact the Northern Ireland Badger Group