WORKMEN on a Canvey building site got more than they bargained for when a badger was spotted catching 40 winks down a lift shaft.

The badger was discovered sleeping at the bottom of a 4ft hole as contractors were busy building a new block of 32 flats on Lubbins car park on Canvey seafront.

It is thought the young female badger had fallen into the lift shaft, off Eastern Esplanade, overnight while foraging for food.

Work was temporarily suspended while wildlife experts from the Essex Badger Protection League were called in to try to rescue the animal.

Roger Thipthorp, whose development company is behind the building work, said it was not the first time animals had been discovered on the site.

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Mr Thipthorp said: “We came down one day and there was a fox asleep in the insulation on the top floor and it was quite happy for us to work around him. It was unbelievable really. Foxes and badgers can be so bold sometimes.

“Unfortunately we haven’t got any windows or doors on the bottom floor at the moment, so even though the site is secure, if animals want in they will find a way. It just so happened that one of our workers thought he had dropped something down the liftshaft, so he spotted it.

“The badger seemed happy enough down there asleep, but it was important to us to get it out safely.”

Volunteers from the animal charity inspected the badger and determined it was unharmed by the fall into the lift shaft. Wooden planks and scaffolding bars were suspended into the pit and a trail of breadcrumbs left to try to entice the badger to come out of its own accord once darkness fell. It finally left on Monday night.

If the badger has not managed to escape, the charity will capture the animal today and release it back into the wild.

Frank Last from the Essex Badger Protection League, said: “When we went down it was curled up and fast asleep. I had a look at her and she didn’t seem to be injured by the fall, so we gave her some water and some bread and decided to leave her alone."

Work on the development is expected to be completed in the summer.