Major revision of badger numbers in West Somerset cull area

THE estimated numbers of badgers in the pilot culls areas, particularly West Somerset, has fallen again, following a third attempt to gauge populations.

The figures have emerged in the authorisation letters confirming Natural England’s decision to grant full badger control licences to the companies running the culls in the two pilot areas.

The letters show the minimum number of badgers to be ‘taken and killed’ within the West Somerset licence area during the permitted six-week culling period is 2,081, with a maximum of 2,162. In West Gloucestershire, the minimum is 2,856 and the maximum 2,932.

With the licences requiring that at least 70 per cent of the badgers are culled, these figures confirm a significant downward revision of the estimated populations in West Somerset, while the West Gloucestershire figures are slightly lower.

The pilot culls were postponed in the autumn when last-minute estimates of badger numbers were released by Defra days before the culls were due to start.

That survey, compiled by Natural England and Defra’s Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), suggested there were 4,300 badgers in the West Somerset area and 3,600 in the West Gloucestershire area. Those figures were double the numbers originally estimated in the West Gloucestershire area and about 60 per cent above the original West Somerset estimate and forced a rethink of the policy.

The NFU called off the cull and NFU president Peter Kendall argued the higher badger numbers raised the risk that the cull would fail to meet its targets, thereby jeopardising the wider roll out to a further 10 areas per year.

But following a further revision of badger numbers, Defra, Natural England, the NFU and the two farmer-run companies running the cull appear to be satisfied that the targets can be met.

A Defra spokesman said the new estimates were based on a wider range of evidence which means they are ‘the most robust estimates we have had’.

“In addition to the sett survey data carried out last year, we have now been able to add genetic data from hair trapping to create a more accurate estimate of the true badger populations in each area,” he said.

“Previous estimates were based on the best evidence available at the time and developed using a robust method subject to independent scrutiny. It is entirely right that these estimates were revised when more information became available as we want the culls to be done in the right way so that they help disease control without endangering wildlife.”

An NFU spokesman said: “We’re confident that the revised numbers represent the best available estimate of local badger populations in the two areas and that we and the companies can proceed with putting in place plans to deliver control operations in 2013 that meet the licence conditions.”

The specifics of this year’s cull were announced this week, with Dorset chosen as the reserve area.

Defra Secretary Owen Paterson told the NFU conference the authorisation letters were ‘an important step towards taking the action we need to tackle the spread of this disease in wildlife’.

“I am determined that there are no further delays this year. That is why we have taken the sensible step with the farming industry to elect a reserve area that can be called upon should anything happen to prevent culling in Somerset or Gloucestershire,” he said.

Hot topic
Click here for the latest news on bovine TB in the UK

Readers' comments (34)

  • This totaly proves that its IMPOSSIBLE to knpw how many badgers there actually are.Therefore how the hell do you mangage to kill 70% of an unknown quantity.The whole policy risks local extinctions which ARE against EU Laws!! Whole policy needs rethinking before there is a total and utter balls up.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • What a load of bollocks once again, this cull has yet to go ahead I don`t think it will, all politics and playing for time and playing with peoples lives It won`t long before the farmers will be named which be be another reason to stop the cull

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • lol we removed loads of the hairs

    ha ha ha ha
    we just saved thousands of badgers lives

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Thanks for that piece of information Jay.
    In that case we will take it that you have removed 30% of badgers out of the equation leaving it clear to cull the remaining 70%. Well done.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • numbers to be killed are fixed into the licence, priceless we have already sabotaged the cull massively before its even started

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Yep you're right with that @Jay 7.15 but you have admitted to removing hairs so therefore the estimate can be adjusted to take that into account. You may have given the nod for more badgers to be killed than necessary.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Actually Jay, you and your friends are nincompoops.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • ha ha ha they have no idea how many hairs we took or for how long and we are hardly going to tell them, we published it at the time

    our goal is to the stop cull, this is a massive blow and step towards that goal.

    not to shoddy for nincompoops?

    still laughing at how easy this cull is to sabotage

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • @ Jay Tiernan | 1 March 2013 6:08 pm
    If what you assert is correct (which I very much doubt) then following the science your actions would result in increased perturbation and therefore sentencing more badgers and cattle to death from TB. This would be badger and cattle death and suffering on your hands, sleep well “animal lover”.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • @Jay Tiernan

    You really can't see what your stupid shenanigans have done can you?? As Jake Blake said, sleep well AR, animal lover.


    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 per page | 20 per page | 50 per page

Have your say

Register your email address for Farmers Guardian e-bulletins

Get the latest from Farmers Guardian delivered straight to your inbox. Click here to sign-up today

Already receiving bulletins? Sign-in to edit your preferences