Badgers: licences for land management

Land managers may need a licence for forestry or agricultural operations, or drainage and sea-water defence works near to setts.

Badgers may occupy a range of habitats from sea cliffs to upland areas. They’re usually associated with woodland but most often found around agricultural land.

Most land management practices are unlikely to affect badgers or their setts. But you should apply to us for a licence if your work could otherwise result in an offence in relation to badgers.

Forestry operations

Badger setts are often found in woodland. You may require a licence for woodland management works – including vehicle access – within 20m of a sett entrance (30m during the badger breeding season, 30 November to 1 July).

Standard forestry operations licence (SFO)

We can grant standard forestry operations licences to permit felling and harvesting operations within 20m of badger setts between 1 July and 30 November.

To apply, your operations must be carried out using standard mitigation measures. This involves creating a protection zone that extends 20m from all sett entrances and which no heavy machinery or vehicles may enter.

The individual in charge of carrying out or overseeing the operations must apply for the licence. 

How do I apply for the SFO?

You can now apply for your Standard Forestry Operations licence using our online system. Applying for the SFO licence should only take around 10 minutes and the approval and issue of a licence is automatic. You will need to know the location and the number of entrances of all setts on site. You can only use this facility if you are applying to be the licence holder, not if you are applying on behalf of someone else.

Apply for a Standard Forestry Operations Licence.

You will receive an email of the licence. Works will only be legally covered once you have this confirmation from us.

If you are unable to use the online application above, or are applying on behalf of someone else, you can apply using our Standard Forestry Operations application form.  Please note this method of applying will take much longer for us to process and send an approved licence.

There is a reporting requirement for Standard Forestry Operations Licences, this must be submitted to us within one month of the works being completed. Details of this reporting requirement can be found in the conditions of the licence.  Licence returns must be submitted using our online system..

Submit a Standard Forestry Operations licence return

SFO renewals and amendments

We are not implementing the ability to renew a licence. If works are ongoing at a site previously licensed, then please apply as a new application. If you wish to amend your contact details on an existing licence, then please email us with the SFO licence number to be amended and the changes to be made.  If you need to add a new sett, then please apply for the sett as a new licence.

More complex forestry operations

You must apply for a licence for non-standard forestry operations if either:

  • you’re planning more complex activities – e.g. exclusion of setts or bringing vehicles within 20m of sett entrances
  • you can’t comply with one or more of the standard forestry operations licence terms or conditions

See the Licence application form – badgers and forestry: non-standard operation

Agricultural operations

You should apply to us for a licence if you’re planning agricultural operations within 30m of a sett entrance and the work might otherwise constitute an offence in relation to badgers.

To apply for a licence for agricultural operations, email [email protected].

You should include:

  • your full name, address and telephone number
  • the number, status and location (grid reference) of the setts
  • the number of sett entrances for each sett
  • full details of what it is you propose to do and whether setts will be temporarily blocked, damaged, destroyed or subject to disturbance

Drainage and sea-water defences

We issue licences to permit interference with badger setts to carry out works to maintain or improve watercourses or drainage. This includes works related to sea or tidal defences.

To apply for a licence for watercourse or drainage works, email [email protected].

We are able to licence flood alleviation works that might affect badgers or their setts under the licensable purpose of preventing serious damage to property.

Badger Ecologist licence

Badger Ecologist licences can be issued to permit works with low conservation impacts to go ahead (if certain criteria are met) for the purposes of development, preventing serious damage, forestry and agricultural operations.

If you are an experienced badger ecologist in Scotland and you would like to apply for the Badger Ecologist licence please read the Badger Ecologist licence - an ecologist's guide to check you meet the criteria and for information on how to apply.

Licence changes and renewals

You should get in touch if you wish to amend a licence. But check your licence conditions first: you may be able to appoint agents and assistants without having to get them named on your licence.

Find out about adding persons to a licence.

You must also remember to contact us to renew your licence. Licences aren’t renewed automatically.

Find out more

Data Protection notice

Guidance notes for providing supporting information for badger licence application

Badger - current use guidance


If you already have a licence number, include it in the subject line of your email, or have it to hand when you call.

Licensing Team

01463 725364

[email protected]

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