Fears rising over Berwick’s badger problem

Fears are rising over the scale of a badger problem in a Berwick graveyard, with concerns angry families may ‘take matters into their own hands’.

Tuesday, 20th July 2021, 10:57 am
A badger.

County bosses in Northumberland are believed to have been aware of the issues at the town’s Tweedmouth Cemetery for more than a year.

But despite the damage, which some have suggested could eventually lead to bones being unearthed, the protected status of the creatures makes dealing with them tricky.

“There’s a big problem with badgers which have been there for months now,” said Georgina Hill, county councillor for Berwick East.

“It went quiet for a while, but then maybe because of the time of year it’s been getting worse again recently.

“People are going to their loved ones’ graves and finding they’ve been dug over and there’s loads of mud, which can obviously be quite upsetting.

“In some cases of this happening elsewhere they’ve even dug up bones (and while) that hasn’t happened here yet, I’m worried things could get worse – but what can you do when they’re so protected?”

Calls are growing Northumberland County Council to step up efforts to get to grips with the badgers before they can cause further damage.

As well as digging over ground on the site, there are also fears they could undermine headstones, as well as uncover remains in some of the older parts of the cemetery.

And while some campaigners, who wished to remain anonymous, shared frustrations over legal restrictions on tackling the badgers, they fear others may begin taking steps such as setting traps or leaving poison if something isn’t done.

A Northumberland County Council spokesperson said: “We are aware that badgers have been present in and around Tweedmouth Cemetery and are monitoring this situation very closely.

“Badgers and their setts are legally protected, which makes it very difficult to take preventative action to relocate them or stop them digging in an area, with such work only being authorised under specific circumstances and requiring a special licence from Natural England.

“We have consulted with ecologists and Natural England about the situation at the cemetery and what actions can be taken to minimise the impact of the badgers’ activity.

“At present, due to the legal constraints, we are only able to inspect the cemetery on a daily basis and to identify and repair any damage caused.

“We fully understand people’s concerns, and the distress that this might cause to families who have loved ones buried there.

“Please be assured that we are monitoring the situation very closely, and taking appropriate action – we would urge people not to take matters into their own hands.”

At July’s meeting of the full county council, John Riddle, cabinet member for local services, said he was aware of damage caused by the badgers which had seen them ‘undermine gravestones’ at the cemetery.

A statement from the Northumberland Wildlife Trust said: “Badgers are heavily protected by The Protection of Badgers Act 1992, and any well-meaning intervention by anybody would be equally as illegal as setting traps or putting out poisoned bait.

“If anybody suspects any of those things are happening we would urge them to report it to the police on the non-emergency number.”