The road to ruin... burrowing Banbridge badgers leave a hole lot of trouble in their wake
This road has been closed to traffic for the last four months – thanks to badger damage.
The Valley Road in Banbridge was closed in August following a collapse caused by a family of badgers burrowing a home underneath.
This week Roads Service staff uncovered the true extent of the network of tunnels that had been excavated under the road.
They included chambers containing bedding, but the colony appeared to be an 'outlier' of a larger network in a nearby field, according to environmental consultant Dr Jane Preston.
"So far it's just a small chamber and then there would be tunnels running out of it," she said.
"We will probably find a network of tunnels with one big bedding chamber underneath it. That is probably what caused the collapse. It would be a common occurrence on roads in general because you have a roadside bank and badgers love banks."
Fixing the road was less than straightforward because it is a criminal offence to disturb badgers without a licence.
Before closing the sett, the team had to install one-way gates to allow the badgers to leave but not re-enter, allow two weeks for them to vacate the sett and make sure there was somewhere for them to go.
"In this case, there is a larger sett nearby where they would live 24/7. This one is classed as an outlier sett, somewhere that they would use now and again, but not all the time," Dr Preston said.
Conor Reid, ecologist with URS, the engineering company that investigated the collapse, said: "We did the initial surveys with Roads Service – we figured out that it was a badger sett and followed the procedure of getting it closed under licence."
Local residents said the collapse had left only a small hole.
One resident said people drove along the road anyway but the closure had posed more problems for visitors to a local nursing home.
"We do notice cars stopping when they see the sign and they turn. They have to go to the crossroads and do a three-mile diversion – it's not fair," she said.
Dairy farmer Andrew Nelson said Roads Service had "made a mountain out of a molehill" as there hadn't been any badgers in the tunnels in 20 years.
"It was only a hole in the road that you could put your hand in – it just needed filled," he said.
"You couldn't have put a jam pot in that hole.
"The way you can tell whether there are badgers living there is dead simple. It would have had a path leading to it and if there were badgers in it, they bring their bedding out to dry in the daytime and it is stinking.
"There is a chapel down the road, there is a nursing home, so all those people were put out."
A DRD spokesperson said: "Environmental consultants acting on behalf of Roads Service have confirmed that damage to the Valley Road, Banbridge is being caused by badgers. As badgers are a protected species, legal permission had been sought and Roads Service will begin remedial work on this stretch of road early this week if all the environmental factors are satisfactory."
Badgers have lived in Ireland for at least 6,000 years and are our largest land carnivore.
They have a coarse, grey fur coat and small, white-tipped tail.
Their short, powerful legs have five well-developed claws on each foot, which makes them exceptional diggers.