Friday, January 24, 2014

Badgers in England Have Last Laugh

credit: The Guardian
The UK's Tory government has egg on its face or is it badger pooh?  The final statistics show the disastrous culls succeeded in killing less than 24% of the target populations.  The goal was originally set at 70%. According to a new scientific survey, the number of badger setts (dens) has doubled in the last thirty years which accords with anecdotal reports from farmers. The total number of badger clans is estimated to be about 70,000. That is very good news for a species that has been persecuted for centuries and only protected beginning in 1992. The numbers also indicate a healthy rural environment where badgers live. Researchers visited 1600 randomly chosen square kilometer areas during two winters when reduced vegetation made setts easier to locate. One of the scientists involved in the study admitted that the number of setts is a poor predictor of the actual number of badgers. Because the animals are shy, subterranean for a large part of the time, and nocturnal, they are notoriously difficult to count. She also told The Guardian that there is no linear relationship between the number of badgers and the incidence of bovine tuberculosis. The culls, backed by an influential Tory constituency, were heavily criticized by wildlife specialists for making that implicit assumption. More than 27,000 infected cattle were killed in 2013, down 11% from the previous year.