You heard it here first, folks: Dutch badgers are systematically taking out the country’s public transportation network.
Okay, okay, that might be a little extreme. But over the past few months, badgers have dug dens under a number of railways in the Netherlands, damaging the tracks, stopping traffic and wreaking havoc on the nation’s rail system. Authorities have identified at least 40 places where the track “is potentially compromised by eager badgers,” reports Dutch News. In some places, sections of track have already begun to sink because of the hollows in the sandy soil beneath it. If a track sinks too much, it could theoretically be enough to send a train off the rails and cause catastrophic damage.
Netherlands’s badgers seem to be intentionally seeking out train lines. However, it’s not because they have some kind of anti-government rebel plot to take out the country’s infrastructure. Instead it’s a simple matter of topography: the Netherlands is a very flat country. Badgers prefer hillsides for digging, and the long, raised mounds that hold the train tracks look to the badgers like perfect nesting sites. Badgers are tough little creatures but very perceptive. (Some have even been trained to sniff out diseases like cancer.) They tend to be picky about their denning sites, so luring them away from the trains has been unsuccessful so far.
In the past, Dutch authorities have tried to repair sunken tracks or fill in the burrows, AKA “setts.” But now, with spring denning season on the way, the situation is coming to a head. There are simply too many setts, and the badgers are digging deeper. Railway authorities are working on evicting the badgers by installing one-way valves over the burrow exits.
However, now that the animals have babies on the way, some badger advocates are arguing that the time isn’t right to kick the mout. It may be better to wait until July when the baby badgers have grown up enough to leave the den, reports The Guardian.
But whether or not the train lines can withstand three more months of closures remains to be seen. The Netherlands is a small but populous country where few people have cars. Instead, the nation relies on its railway system (and some incredibly connected bike lanes) for transportation.
Right now, some Dutch authorities are working on a more passive solution: instead of evicting the badgers outright, they’re hoping to build artificial burrows to lure them out from under the trains. Whether the badgers fall for the trick remains to be seen.