A survey of badger populations carried out by the Central Science
Laboratory last year has shown badgers are now as common as foxes
across large parts of the English countryside, and a targeted
cull to reduce the incidence of bovine TB would not represent
any threat to badger numbers overall.
The survey was carried out in the spring and autumn of 2006 in
four study regions in Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.
Researchers found that badger population densities in open pasture
were 4.3 per square kilometre in Devon, 3.3 per sq km in Gloucestershire,
2.9 per sq km in Cornwall and 1.5 per sq km in Herefordshire.
These were broadly similar to the numbers of foxes found in open
pasture in the four study areas, and significantly higher than
numbers of hares and deer.
The survey also looked at hedgehog populations and found a clear
correlation between high numbers of badgers and low numbers of
hedgehogs. This confirms the findings of previous surveys that
predation by a rapidly increasing badger population has been the
key factor in the hedgehog’s decline.
NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said the survey confirmed
that there were no wildlife conservation reasons why a TB cull
should not go ahead, and at least two good reasons why it should.
"This removes another potential obstacle to tackling the
TB reservoir in wildlife," he said. "The badger is clearly
thriving across large parts of the west of the country. A targeted
cull aimed at diseased social groups would make very little difference
to numbers overall, and surely it would be in the interests of
badgers to have a healthy badger population along with avoiding
the spread of bovine TB from badgers to cattle and other wildlife."
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