CULLING badgers spreads deadly bovine TB by forcing them to roam, according to a study.
Researchers found culling drove the critters to roam 61 per cent further afield, which may explain why the practice can make bovine TB transmission worse.
Culling badgers spreads deadly bovine TB by forcing them to roam, according to a study[/caption]
Researchers from Imperial College London and the Zoological Society of London also found badgers visited 45 per cent more fields each month after culling.
The findings, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, led the research teams to conclude that badgers explore new areas as individuals are removed from neighbouring groups and territories open up.
They found that badgers spent less time outside of their setts in culled areas – spending on average 91 minutes less per night out and about.
Study lead author Cally Ham, a PhD student at ZSL and Imperial College, said: “Badgers spend a large proportion of the night foraging for food above ground, and as culling reduces the size of the population, competition for food will also be reduced.
“We believe this accounts for the reduced activity levels, as well as bold individuals becoming obvious targets for culling and being quickly removed from the population.
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Bovine tuberculosis is the most important endemic livestock disease in the UK, with 5.8 per cent of herds affected in 2018.
Although the bacteria which cause bovine TB have been found in a variety of mammals, the European badger (Meles meles) has been identified as the predominant wildlife host in Britain.
Since the UK Government implemented the culling policy in 2011, ZSL scientists have been working to understand whether badger vaccination – a non-lethal alternative to culling – could be used to reduce the infection of TB in the UK’s badger population, and so help control TB in cattle.
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