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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Badger cull targets announced for Gloucestershire and Somerset

badgerNatural England has issued authorisation letters for this year's badger cull to take place
A target number of badgers to be killed in this year's pilot cull has been announced.
Authorisation letters for the cull have been issued by Natural England. A minimum of 615 in Gloucestershire and 316 in Somerset need to be killed.
In 2013, 921 badgers were killed in Gloucestershire and 940 in Somerset in a bid to tackle TB in cattle.
The companies carrying out the cull have not announced when it will start this year.
A maximum number of badgers that can be culled this year has been set at 1,091 in Gloucestershire and 785 in Somerset.
Original population estimates for badgers have now been revised by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to 1,904 in Gloucestershire and 1,876 in Somerset.
The four-year pilot cull aims to kill 70% of the initial population to test how effective, humane and safe a cull can be.
An extension to the cull in 2013 in Gloucestershire was ended early as it had not met its target, and the Somerset pilot failed to meet its target even after a three-week extension.
Government ministers and the National Farmers' Union believe culling badgers will curb TB in cattle. Opponents say shooting the animals is not effective and inhumane.


Dan said...

I rather suspect that this isn't going to work, because the cull isn't drastic enough. The problem here is a mismatch between what badger biology seems to say about how their population ought to behave, and how it is acting in Britain right now.

Badgers look like fairly typical mesopredators, but have a few peculiarities. They show delayed egg implantation, meaning they can mate at any time of year and still give birth in the early spring. They are also prolific burrow diggers, not a habit common to many predators but one that prey species do commonly exhibit.

When breeding, badgers in colonial environments seem to be extremely poor at it. Only about half of the cubs born ever get above ground; this suggests that colonial living is not common behaviour in badger evolutionary history. Very extensive scent-marking is also a good indicator that this is a mostly-solitary animal that encounters its fellows only rarely. This also strongly suggests that badgers are adapted to exploiting very patchy, widely-dispersed resources.

As a result of this, culling 70% of the population is not likely to make much of a dent in it. All it will do is boost the breeding success of the remaining animals, and get us back to square one inside a year. I am also of the opinion that TB is capable of producing endospores, hence even if you do eliminate every single badger, you also need to fill in the setts so isolate the spores.

No, what this needs is a more cunning approach. Instead of attempting to vaccinate animals against bovine TB (arguing against the DEFRA research which suggested the utter futility of this), a contraceptive vaccine ought to be deployed, to shut down the breeding of females whilst leaving them capable of defending territories and thus denying these areas to incomers.

Even better would be a concerted effort to develop oral contraceptive vaccines, both for badgers and for deer, rodents, foxes and the like. Like it or not, we have wildlife populations we need to control and doing so non-lethally is a much better and indeed safer method than simply shooting them.

Syd said...

More MASS MURDER being sponsored by our worthless Government at tax payers expense.
Instead of slaughtering innocent badgers, who are doing no harm, why can we not shoot our overpaid and useless MP's.