A shot in the arm for badgers

A vaccinated badger PNL-140923-163906001
A vaccinated badger PNL-140923-163906001

Badgers on nature reserves in Oxfordshire are to be vaccinated, and not culled.

The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is about to begin vaccinating badgers on nature reserves in west Oxon, which is part of the high risk area for bovine TB as defined by Defra.

During October and November a team of trained BBOWT staff will be vaccinating badgers on three reserves at the start of a five-year programme of vaccination.

The Oxfordshire Badger Group has been vaccinating badgers on a fourth reserve since 2012.

The second phase of the government’s pilot badger culls began earlier this month in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset.

Defra has set the targets of at least 615 badgers to be killed in Gloucestershire and 316 in Somerset.

BBOWT head of strategy and conservation, Matt Jackson, said: “We are very disappointed that culling is under way again, particularly as there will be no monitoring of how humane and effective the culling is this year.

“However, we are pleased that the government is supporting vaccination programmes in the Edge area, which includes most of Oxfordshire and Berkshire and all of Buckinghamshire.

“This year we’re vaccinating badgers on Wildlife Trust nature reserves, but in future we would like to work with neighbouring landowners, other vaccinators and the Oxfordshire Badger Group to build up a network of sites across the three counties where badgers are vaccinated every year.

“This is one way of reducing the risk of bovine TB migrating across England from the West Country.”

This summer a team of trained BBOWT staff from the Mammal Project surveyed Oxfordshire nature reserves in the high risk area to identify setts and current badger activity.

BBOWT will expand its vaccination programme into other nature reserves in the Edge area from April next year.