Wendy Tobitt of BBOWT looks at the vaccination plans for the county’s badgers

There are three weeks left of the Government’s six-week badger cull in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset, where the ‘cull companies’ aim to kill up to 1,876 badgers.

The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) firmly opposes the badger culls and will not permit culling of badgers on its land.

Matt Jackson, head of policy, said: “We are very disappointed that culling is under way again, particularly as there is no monitoring of how humane and effective it will be. Last year’s cull was monitored by the Independent Expert Panel, which included Tim Coulson, the University of Oxford’s Professor of Zoology.

“The panel concluded that the culls were ineffective and failed to meet humane standards, and recommended that the marksmen carrying out the cull should receive more training.

“But the panel was not commissioned to report on this year’s cull, so we won’t know if fewer badgers will have a lingering death.”

The Government’s badger cull aims to reduce the risk of bovine TB spreading from the High Risk area of the West Country and West Midlands into the adjacent ‘Edge’ area, which includes Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

The Wildlife Trusts believe that culling can be counter-productive, because badgers disperse during a cull and can spread bovine TB to a wider area.

Instead, the trusts are calling for a national badger vaccination strategy, together with stricter measures regarding the movement of cattle, improved TB testing of cattle so that fewer infected cattle are missed, and better disease risk management on farms.

BBOWT is one of 13 Wildlife Trusts vaccinating badgers on their land, or supporting badger vaccination programmes that are being carried out by trained lay vaccinators.

Earlier this year, BBOWT Trustees agreed that a programme of badger vaccination, which was started in 2012 on the Trust’s Chimney Meadows nature reserve near Bampton, should be extended to other reserves in the county.

Last month four of the Wildlife Trust’s staff were trained and licensed as lay vaccinators. Now they are starting a five-year programme of vaccination on specific BBOWT nature reserves where badgers are known to have their setts, and on neighbouring land.

During the summer, BBOWT staff surveyed several Oxfordshire nature reserves to identify current badger activity and selected three reserves: Dry Sandford Pit, Glyme Valley and Tuckmill Meadows, where badgers will be vaccinated during October and November.

These sites were chosen because they are close to known cases of bovine TB, have current badger activity, and are also grazed by cattle.

Matt Jackson said that BBOWT would also like to extend the vaccination programme for badgers into other parts of Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

He said: “We would like to work with local landowners, the NFU, the Oxfordshire Badger Group, which has been vaccinating badgers at Chimney Meadows, and other trained lay vaccinators to create a network of sites where badgers will be vaccinated every year for at least five years.

“This will help to build up resistance to the disease in the Edge area by building up ‘herd’ immunity in vaccinated badger populations.”