Badgers at a site near Rugby given jabs to stop bovine TB

Photo by Paul Bunyard, Warwickshire Badger Group
Photo by Paul Bunyard, Warwickshire Badger Group

Badgers at three sites across Warwickshire – including one near Rugby – have been vaccinated in co-operative projects involving two of the county’s conservation groups.

Warwickshire Badger Group (WBG) has one of the country’s most experienced, accredited vaccinators in Steve Hawkes, from Whitnash, and with support from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, he has completed a vaccination project near Rugby, with Steve working solo, often in near darkness just before dawn.

The other two vaccinations projects took place on land near Stratford-upon-Avon.

All three projects involved detailed and lengthy preparation – to entice badgers into humane traps containing peanut food. There they were injected with Government-approved vaccine and marked with a streak of non-toxic dye to ensure they were vaccinated only once. All were then released safely back to the wild.

Badgers are susceptible to bovine TB, an acute respiratory disease.

Vaccination gives a high degree of protection, both to adult badgers and to cubs born to vaccinated sows, and it also reduces the small risk that a badger could become infectious and pass the disease back to cattle.

Cattle which test positive for the disease have to be slaughtered.

The Government’s preferred way to reduce the incidence of bovine TB in cattle is to licence culling of badgers in set areas of the country. The Government is now looking at whether to extend its cull to Warwickshire

WBG chair Denise Taylor said: “Our vaccination work started in 2011 and we want to do more, as do Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. We are both utterly opposed to badger culling, which we see as unscientific, unproven and a costly waste of taxpayers’ money and we are alarmed that the Government’s hotly opposed and highly contentious culls could be extended this year to our county.

“That would be a travesty, for we know Warwickshire’s badgers are virtually free of bovine disease, a fact effectively confirmed by the Defra-sponsored road-kill survey that we and the trust actively supported last year. Only a handful of the 100 carcasses examined showed any sign of the disease and none had reached the infectious stage.”