BADGER damage at Wyke Cemetery is not as significant as first feared – although the protected creatures will have to be tackled to prevent future problems.

An ecologists’ report has found none of the graves being weakened by badgers digging alongside them and no evidence of disturbance to human remains.

More than 50 holes were confirmed during the survey with a recommendation that a special licence be sought to block up some existing holes.

It appears that the best solution may be to allow the badgers to stay on the cemetery site, if necessary building a new sett for them at a cost of up to £15,000. To move them on may only result in problems elsewhere in the area. Alder Ecology has identified 55 entrance holes, with an established badger sett alongside the southern boundary wall to Wyke Road near the footpath entrance into the cemetery hidden within brambles. The ecologists say there is evidence of badgers foraging elsewhere in the area with badgers pushing through the tall meadow grassland in the adjoining fields to the north and east. Previous work in the area by a badger consultant had identified several setts within 600m of the cemetery, including one within 240m to the north-west. The ecologists report, which will go before Weymouth town councillors tomorrow recommends excluding the badger from the holes associated with graves, which will need a special licence and a badger specialists to carry out the work.

The report to the council’s services committee says: “Methods include soft blocking and then after a period of monitoring to confirm no badgers are using a sett, it can be firmly blocked and netted to prevent the badgers returning.Where badgers are likely to be using a sett hole then the installation of one-way gates are likely to be required which allows badgers to leave but not re-enter an entrance hole.”The report also concludes that the main sett on the southern edge of the site could be left in place: “Complete exclusion of the badger social group from all setts and holes identified during the survey will only serve to move the problem elsewhere. In this case it is recommended that an alternative sett should be constructed in an area away from the graves. This can be created in such a way to provide a sufficient number of entrance holes and underground chambers to accommodate a social group, and in a way which prevents badgers from digging outwards from this sett where they may cause damage to the immediate area.”

The specialists say that if an artificial sett is needed it will have to be in place several months before the badger-dug setts are closed, but this can only be carried out between now and November.

“This is to enable badgers to become used to the new sett and increase the chances it will be readily occupied once their existing setts have been closed down.”

The total costs to building a 12-chamber artificial sett, encouraging badgers to occupy the artificial sett and the closure and badger proofing of all 55 holes identified range from £12,000 to £15,000+.

The report to councillors warns that is the artificial sett does need to be finally introduced into the cemetery then grave spaces will be lost and, while it is possible to exclude badgers from their existing setts, doing so does not guarantee the successful removal of the problem.

“This is especially likely in the absence of any form of mitigation and is likely to push the problem elsewhere either within the cemetery or onto land immediately adjoining, such as local resident’s gardens.”