Artificial den built for badgers where burrowing threatened railroad structure

Railroad infrastructure firm ProRail will construct an artificial den for the badgers that have been digging under the train tracks near Molkwerum, Friesland. Badgers in the area brought train traffic to a standstill recently in the region after years of burrowing under the railroad between Workum and Stavoren.

Badgers prefer sandy soil for building a den, also known as a sett, which has made the railway embankment particularly appealing, ProRail said on Sunday. There are literally dozens of tunnels and caves that the badgers dug under the railroad, making it more likely that the section could collapse when a train rolls above the den.

ProRail said the badgers “have to get out. The track is sinking because of the digging. That is not safe for train traffic.”

However, the animals are a protected species in The Netherlands, requiring a more nuanced approach to the situation. Ecologists and ProRail workers expect to complete building a new den from sand for the badgers on Monday, which will be adjacent to the railroad.

Once the sand was in place, the plan was for excavators to drive “very carefully” on the track. “So that we do not disturb the badgers at this time and to prevent subsidence.”

Following the construction of the new artificial den, experts have to lure the badgers out of their current sett. They have to be prevented from returning, as well. Only then can ProRail get to work to fix the section of track to make it suitable for rail traffic.

Currently, trains are not running from Leeuwarden to Sneek, a wider section of track that includes the area near Molkwerum. It is not yet clear when trains will begin operating there again.

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