Over the Easter weekend, anyone walking their dog around the field below the Whitwell Road cemetery in Reepham, next to the high school, may have noticed the grass was changing from green to brown.
Broomhill resident Helen Lindsay at first thought the field was dry from lack of rain, but said it “soon became apparent the grass had been sprayed with what must have been an extremely strong herbicide. It killed everything on the field and I guess it must have been an industrial-strength glyphosate.”
Ms Lindsay has been watching and recording the badgers that lived in the field over the past few years. The many dog walkers who use the path will be familiar with the four or five large setts at the far end of the field and the badger path up to the cemetery.
“I don’t know of any reason why any field would need to be sprayed to the degree that every plant is killed,” she said. “Even months later in July the grass is still dead, although the field is now full of weeds.
“Then I noticed that all the badger activity around the setts had ceased and I realised that since Easter there also haven’t been any footprints or digging, and now the setts have become overgrown.”
The field is designated as a site for a housing development, and the National Planning Policy Framework says that badgers on a site have to be given a 30-metre perimeter or relocated.
Ms Lindsay said: “I have no direct evidence, apart from the timing, that these badgers have been poisoned, but it does seem like a coincidence. And whatever anyone thinks of badgers, they are protected and it is a criminal offence to harm them.
“While I don’t know for sure that these badgers have been poisoned, if the field is subject to an environmental impact assessment or planning application which says the badgers, who have lived there happily for many years, have suddenly disappeared, I think it is quite clear that poisoning is exactly what has happened.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has no evidence to suggest that badgers can be poisoned directly by the use of glyphosate, which is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and crop desiccant.
Herbicide use could, however, affect mammals such as badgers by removing plant food sources and changing the microclimate.