ProRail made good progress digging up the badger sett under the railway near Esch. Their estimate is that if work can continue at the current pace, train traffic between Den Bosch and Eindhoven should resume its regular service within a few days. Train traffic has been impossible since last Tuesday, because there are badgers under the railway. “So far, the damage seems limited. Many of the tunnels are not under the railtracks as such”.
ProRail made a start on Friday morning digging up the first tunnels of the sett under the railway. The operation involves four diggers, a small army of naturalists and a number of railway workers. The operation is running more smoothly than anticiped, says Prorail.
The tunnels dug up on these first days are not very deep, according to Wilma van Kollenburg of ProRail. “The damage seems manageable. We found short tunnels, at times interconnected, with no signs of badger habitation. If this trend continues, we will not need an entire week to finish the job”.
The spokesperson does not wish to pinpoint an exact date for the resumption of train traffic. “On Saturday and Sunday we have our work cut out for us when we tackle the larger burrow systems. (Burrow systems contain a labyrinth of rooms inside, used as food stores, sleeping chambers and nests, EN). A veteranarian will join us because of the possibility of finding badger cubs in the nest.”
The nest may contain a badger female with cubs. Badgers are a protected species in the Netherlands, and have to be handled very carefully. Ecologist Jeroen Koorevaar monitors the animals’ welfare. “The female’s nipples tell us that she is nourishing cubs. So when we find cubs, we need a vet, to ensure that both the cubs and the mother can leave the nest safely”.
Koorevaar uses his own eyes as well as a camera to check each burrow for habiation. “We dig up the empty tunnels bit by bit. When we finish a stretch, everything is filled up again neatly. We place wire mesh so that the badgers cannot start digging in the same place. If we do find a badger, we stop digging to give the animal time to leave the burrow. And we film the site all the time, so that we are sure that the badgers have left and that the wire mesh really prevents them from starting again.
Ecologist Koorevaar is not surprised that badgers find De Esch an attractive spot. “The habitat has enough biodiversity with ample food in every season. Badgers do each need their own territory, though, so they take up more and more space. Because there is not much difference in height, a railway bank becomes attractive to them”. This is why ProRail will take permanent measures later this year to protect the railway system against badgers.
translated (with some editing) by Greta
Das en Boom (site only in Dutch) is an organisation for the protection of badgers