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Musteline menace tests Sheffield steel

Badger orgy of destruction threatens city

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Residents in the Gleadless area of Sheffield are "at their wits' end" after seven years of relentless badger harrassment during which the animals have trashed gardens, felled trees, and held wild late-night orgies, the Evening Standard reports.

The case of Richard Oldham is typical: first up, members of the 40-strong badger colony dug up his lawn. They then undermined the footings of his £2k decking, prompting its demolition. Moving swifly on, they excavated under the garden shed "used by his two-year-old daughter Olivia as a playhouse". And finally, they brought down his garden fence by digging up the concrete posts.

The 49-year-old said: "My whole garden is undermined by their tunnels. I daren't let Olivia play out – if she doesn't fall down a hole, they are likely to attack her protecting their pups."

John Cooper, 73, who lives nearby, said the animals have wrecked his vegetables. He explained: "I've put in all the barriers but nothing works – they get round them eventually. There was never a problem until around seven years ago when I fell down a hole in my lawn almost breaking my leg.

"Now there are 19 badger setts within 100 yards. Each provides home to a male and female and at this time of year they have pups – the badgers are taking over. I love to see them play, but they can be quite scary, especially when they are fighting. One night there was a hell of a noise and I woke up to find one large badger had been killed by a rival badger in my garden."

Cooper's next-door neighbour Michael Broomhead, 60, added: "The are very powerful animals and dig huge holes looking for worms. They have felled three trees by digging under them, trampled all my crops, and they make a terrible racket at night.

"When they are having sex they howl and scream and when they are fighting they make terrible blood-curdling noises as if they are being murdered."

Tempted as the good burghers of Gleadless may be to deploy the gas cannisters, there's nothing they can do about the musteline menace. Monica Ward of the South Yorkshire Badger Group said: "It is illegal to interfere with their setts. All we can do is advise people on the best way to make their gardens badger-proof. We have done all we can to help out. We wrote to 100 houses advising people not to feed the badgers as it encourages them."

Indeed, Oldham has been told that once the badgers have reared their pups "he can apply for a licence from the Department for the Environment to install badger gates at his property". If, "after several months monitoring the gates", the badgers have made themselves scarce, he'll be able to install permanent barriers - but only "under the supervision of a government-appointed consultant at a cost of several thousand pounds".

Oldham says he can't afford this solution, which in any case failed to protect John Cooper's vegetables. It appears, then, that Gleadlessians will either have to up sticks ("For sale: bungalow, desirable residential area in close proximity to untamed indigenous wildlife. Garden requires attention"), or learn to live with their anti-social neighbours. ®

Bootnote

If Gleadless's four-legged miscreants do mysteriously pop their paws, locals might be interested in this mouth-watering recipe for baked badger.

On the other hand, if you don't fancy badger, try Clarissa Dickson Wright's Fox Casserole. Tasty.

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