It will come as no surprise to you that I don’t support the badger cull. Not just because I’m an ecologist and animal lover. But because all the evidence indicates that it has and will be totally ineffective in reducing TB in cattle, and could even make things worse. Until there is improved vaccination and testing available for cattle, I will support badger vaccination as a way of managing TB risk and looking after one of our most iconic wild animals at the same time. I am really proud that Wirral and Cheshire Badger Group have stepped up to offer badger vaccination services and am looking forward to helping any way I can.
To that end, members of the badger group gathered at an estate near Frodsham to undertake badger survey with a dual purpose – to provide data for a future badger vaccination at the site, and to make sure we were all working to the same survey standards. The snowdrops were in full bloom, the daffs were coming out and the sun was shining. It was a great day out. Improved by the excellent company, birthday cake and by finding plenty of signs of badger presence including some promising locations for potential future trapping and vaccination.
The vaccination programme starts with interested landowners/tenants signing up for a badger survey, to be carried out by the group’s trained volunteers. The survey will identify any setts, badger paths and other signs of activity so that a trapping programme can be designed with the aim of catching at least 70% of the badgers present on the land.
The idea is that traps are placed near sett entrances or on well-used paths and baited with peanuts to encourage badgers to investigate them. The traps are left open and pre-baited with peanuts for several days and when the time is right, a suitably licensed person sets the traps and, in the morning, comes back to attend to any captured badgers. Badgers are vaccinated, marked with a non-permanent paint spray to identify them as vaccinated, then released. Trapping is planned to continue for two nights only, as apparently it’s usual to get the same badgers again on subsequent nights, and we don’t want to waste peanuts if we aren’t getting any new badgers !
Next year, the traps come out again and we vaccinate the badgers again – this continues for five years if possible, to try and achieve herd immunity. We want to vaccinate on as much land in our study area as possible, ideally on adjacent plots, to get the greatest benefit from the work.
To find out more, please visit Wirral and Cheshire Badger Group website.