Badger Vaccination

Dorset Wildlife Trust needs to raise £45,500 to vaccinate
badgers against tuberculosis on several of our nature reserves

Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) costs the UK tens of millions of pounds every year and Dorset Wildlife Trust recognises the hardship that it causes in the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control the disease. Cattle grazing is vital for many wildlife habitats, so we work closely with local farmers and manage our own DWT herd. Our cattle have been put under movement restrictions on more than one occasion following inconclusive bTB tests, but fortunately were subsequently given the all clear.

Badgers play a role in the bTB disease cycle. An injectable badger BCG vaccine has recently become available, and there is an urgent need for more data on its practical use in the field. BCG vaccination of badgers could be an important component of a comprehensive programme of measures to reduce the prevalence, incidence and spread of bTB; so we have decided to initiate a five-year programme of badger vaccination on some of our nature reserves. This will contribute to the local control of bTB in cattle by creating immunity in a population of Dorset badgers, thus supporting local farmers whilst protecting badgers.

Badger BCG vaccine alone is not the solution to bTB, but it does have an immediate effect with no known associated negative impact other than cost. Our five-year programme aims to make a worthwhile contribution towards finding a practical solution to a serious animal disease problem and to explore the practicalities of vaccination usage in the field.

This important work will take a great deal of DWT time and resource and is currently unfunded. Please make a contribution to this appeal to help protect Dorset’s badgers and make a contribution to fight the scourge of bovine TB.

Click on the tabs above to read more and find out how you can help.


A big thank you to Appliances Online for their
generous donation of £100 towards our Appeal

Badger Colin Varndell

Badger by Colin Varndell


About bovine tuberculosis (bTB)

Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is an infectious disease of cattle and one of the biggest challenges facing the cattle farming industry today, particularly in the south west of England.

bTB is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis), which can also infect and cause TB in badgers, deer, goats, pigs and many other mammals. It is a chronic disease which can take years to develop.

How is bTB spread?

The spread of bTB is primarily through the exchange of respiratory secretions between infected and uninfected animals. This transmission usually happens when animals are in close contact with each other.

Cattle to cattle transmission is a serious cause of disease spread which is substantiated by scientific evidence. Badgers also suffer from TB and are able to transmit the disease to cattle.

Farmers are required by law to have their cattle tested for bTB and most cattle herds in Dorset are tested annually. A positive test for bTB will result in herd movement restrictions and the slaughter of affected cattle. Around 25,000 cattle were slaughtered for TB control in England in 2010.

DWT has a great deal of sympathy for farmers who lose stock as a result of bTB and we are acutely aware of the problems this disease causes in Dorset. We are very keen to see the eradication of bTB and want to see an effective solution based on scientific advice and evidence.


Badger - Wildstock

Badgers by WildStock



Badger culls


Two ‘pilot’ badger cull areas have been announced in secret locations in Gloucestershire and Somerset.  Culling can start from 1st June 2013.  A third reserve area in Dorset has been proposed.  The reserve area will only be used in the first year if one of the first two areas is cancelled, but is likely to be the primary candidate for any future culls.

DWT has its own herd of cattle in West Dorset which is subject to annual TB testing as with all herds in Dorset.  We work closely with many farmers so we are very conscious of the hardship that bovine TB (bTB) causes the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control the disease.  Badgers do carry bTB and can transfer it to cattle - it is not known what proportion of bTB in cattle arises from badgers, estimates range from 20% to 50%.

This divisive and emotive issue has divided the county with strong views on all sides.

The science

Since the Randomised Badger Control Trial (RBCT) and report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB in 2007, scientific experts have consistently concluded that culling badgers can make no meaningful contribution to controlling bTB in Britain.  Analysis of the RBCT results indicated that the best that can be expected is only a net 16% decline in herd breakdowns assuming all the criteria are met.  These include:

  • A cull area of at least 150km2.
  • A cull must be conducted over 4 years and assumes sufficient funding and determination in the face of public opinion and technical difficulty.
  • 70% of land in the area being subject to culling, and 70% of badgers killed.
  • Conducted simultaneously within a 6 week period.
  • Monitoring is required ­ both before and after.

One of the reasons that a minimum cull area is theoretically required is due to the ‘perturbation effect’, where disruption to badger social groups from culling results in an increased risk of disease transmission because remaining badgers, being opportunistic and territorial, move into and around a culled area.  This potentially brings new infected and uninfected badgers (and cattle) into contact and so spreads the disease.  This effect was observed in the RBCT.  Culling up to hard boundaries such as the sea or major motorways could reduce this effect.  In Dorset, though we have a coast, there are no roads or rivers large enough to act as inland ‘hard’ boundaries, so this is not a county where the perturbation effect can be avoided.

Scientific experts have also agreed that the more culling policy deviates from the conditions of the RBCT, the more likely it is that the results will differ.  The current policy does differ from the RBCT, mainly because ‘controlled shooting’ as opposed to cage trapping will be the primary method of culling.  It is not yet known how effective (or humane) shooting can be at killing the planned number of badgers in the 6 weeks required, or whether shooting will increase movements (and so perturbation) of badgers in the short term more than cage trapping would.  Despite this level of uncertainty, there will be no scientific evaluation of the impact on bTB from the ‘pilot’ culls.

This level of uncertainty and other more efficient available options mean that there is no need to kill thousands of badgers in Dorset over 4 years.



Badgers Colin Varndell

Badgers by Colin Varndell





Vaccination of badgers and cattle has the potential to reduce bTB without the negative impacts of perturbation arising from a badger cull. Since 1998, the Government has invested £30 million in developing TB vaccines for cattle and badgers.

The current status of vaccine development is:

  • An injectable Badger BCG vaccine has been available since 2010.
  • An oral badger vaccine is being developed, but needs to be tested before potential submission to regulatory bodies.
  • A cattle vaccine is being developed but requires regulatory approval and changes to EU legislation to permit its use.

Badger vaccination involves humane trapping overnight, vaccination and release.

In a clinical field study, BCG vaccination of wild badgers resulted in a 74% reduction in the proportion of badgers giving positive results to TB tests. A reduction in the prevalence and severity of the disease in badgers could reduce the degree of TB transmission to cattle.

Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) badger vaccination programme

DWT strongly believes that vaccination against bTB should play an essential part in controlling this very difficult animal disease.

Badger BCG does not cure badgers of the disease, but at the end of our five-year programme the social groups that we will have treated should have a high level of resistance to the bTB disease.
The deployment of bTB vaccines is in its early phases, so our programme will inform the future use of injectable badger vaccines.

The work will involve adult badgers and cubs being humanely trapped and vaccinated by licensed DWT operators, revisiting the same area annually for five years (the average life span of a badger) to ensure the majority of the local population has been vaccinated.

Our vaccination programme will take place on nature reserves within the boundaries of any Dorset cull zones. We are unable to confirm which DWT reserves will be affected until details of any cull zone are agreed.

Preparation work

  • On-site surveys of DWT nature reserves to identify the number and type of badger setts.
  • Locating the necessary equipment and supplies.
  • Ensuring a supply and suitable storage of badger BCG vaccine.
  • Detailed site survey of setts to identify best location of live traps.
  • Training staff and applying for a Certificate of Competence.
  • Obtaining a licence from Natural England to proceed with vaccinations.

Deployment activities

  • Careful location of recorded, numbered traps.
  • Traps locked open and peanuts put down for several nights prior to vaccination.
  • Traps visited on morning of vaccination.
  • Badgers vaccinated, marked, recorded and released.
  • Traps reset and peanuts put down.
  • Traps revisited the following morning.
  • Unmarked badgers vaccinated, marked, recorded and released.
  • Traps removed, cleaned, disinfected and either relocated or returned to store.



Badger trap by Gordon McGlone GWT

Badger trap by Gordon McGlone GWT

Badger checking by Gordon McGlone GWT

Badger trap checking by Gordon McGlone GWT

Badgers trap by Gordon McGlone GWT

Badger trap by Gordon McGlone GWT

How you can help

With your support we can significantly increase the knowledge base on the practical use of badger BCG vaccine, whilst helping to control bTB in cattle and badgers. We need to raise £45,500 to cover the costs of the vaccination programme for seven nature reserves over five years.

Programme costs:

Year 1 capital and set-up costs: £7,500
Year 1 implementation costs: £8,000
Year 2-5 annual costs: £30,000

What your donation could buy:

£5 - one dose of vaccine
£25 - needles and syringes
£50 - two sacks of peanuts for bait
£100 - each trap
£750 - one FERA training course
£1,156 - annual staff time preparing traps
£1,400 - annual certificates of competence for 4 people

Please give as much as you can afford. If Defra does not announce any cull zones in Dorset we will use the money raised on managing our nature reserves.




Badger by WildStock

Badger by WildStock






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