Families could camp out to protect Berwick graves from badgers

Devastated families in Berwick have said they may resort to camping out in one of the town’s cemeteries in a bid to protect their loved ones’ graves.

Monday, 26th July 2021, 10:01 am
Badgers causing problems in Tweedmouth Cemetery.

The town’s Tweedmouth Cemetery is in the grip of a growing badger problem, which has seen earth dug over, headstones undermined and even fears that remains could eventually be uncovered.

Dealing with the issue creates a headache for authorities, due to the protected status of the creatures.

But some are increasingly worried delays could prompt some to take matters into their own hands, leading to efforts to protect the wildlife, as well as the memorials.

“I’ve got grandparents, family members, loved ones, even friends my own age, in the cemetery,” said Jenny, not her real name.

“My uncle, who cared for me like a father, is in there and didn’t get the send off he deserved because of the pandemic, and we just feel useless because all we want to do is protect him.

“It’s heartbreaking anyway, but to then find out there’s badgers digging the place up is just too much for the mind.

“Some of my family have even talked about getting a tent to sleep up there to protect the graves. At the moment, I’m going to the cemetery three or four times a day between morning and midnight – it’s turning into an obsession, but everyone is frightened to leave in case one day there’s damage.”

Jenny is keen to sympathise with all sides, from the concerned families, to Northumberland County Council and to the badgers themselves.

She is particularly keen that ground staff, who have been working to rectify damage as quickly as it occurs, are not criticised and accepts the legal difficulties around any action which could result in harm to the creatures.

And she also admits she is equally ‘terrified’ by the prospect of a grave being significantly damaged as she is by the thought a badger could be attacked over such an action.

She added: “I wouldn’t be involved in any attacks on the badgers, I couldn’t hurt them myself and I would stop them if I could.

“If the badgers dug on one of my loved ones’ graves, if it then meant sitting there 24/7 I would, but I wouldn’t harm them.”

Badgers and their setts are protected under law, making it an offence to intentionally attempt to kill, injure or trap one, or interfere with their habitats.

There are some exceptions to this, such as in the cases of organised badger culls, but they require a special licence.

Both the county council and the Northumberland Wildlife Trust have urged the public not to take matters into their own hands.

The Badger Trust urged the public to remember they are ‘wild animals who have no clue of the inadvertent harm or distress they may be causing’.

But some have warned the situation may soon reach breaking point.

According to another campaigner, who also requested to remain anonymous: “The emotional impact is immense, there’s a lot of upset people – I cared for my partner for years and that was bad enough, but the thought of this is tenfold.

“The effect on me has been soul destroying. There’s a lot in the same boat as me, who dread going up to the cemetery in case this is the day there’s damage and damage to the wrong person’s grave could push that button.

“I certainly couldn’t judge the actions of anyone who did [take matters into their own hands].”

Northumberland County Council has now placed signs around the cemetery, advising visitors it is aware of the badger problem and repairing any damage as it occurs.

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.”

Local Democracy Reporting Service