Badger vaccination appeal

Badger vaccination appeal

Badger Colin VarndellDorset Wildlife Trust needs to raise £50,950 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 was made available and DWT commenced a programme of badger vaccination on nature reserves in 2013.  Sadly the vaccine supplies were cut in 2016 but we are expecting the programme to start up again in 2018.  BCG vaccination of badgers could be an important component of a comprehensive programme of measures to reduce the prevalence, incidence and spread of bTB.  We hope our work 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 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


Photo: Badger by Colin Varndell

About bTB

About bovine tuberculosis (bTB)

Badger - Wildstock

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 29,000 cattle were slaughtered for TB control in England in 2016.

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.


Photo: Badgers by WildStock

Badger culls

Badger culls

Badgers Colin VarndellIntroduction

In an attempt to control the spread of the bTB in cattle, a pilot badger cull started in Somerset and Gloucestershire in 2013. These culls are continuing and led to a roll-out to Dorset in 2015.

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’ is used, as opposed to only allowing cage trapping as the method of culling.  The independent panel reporting on the first year of the trial culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire concluded that they were neither effective (in killing the required number of badgers within a 6 week period) nor humane (in ensuring 95% of badgers died within 5 minutes of being shot).  It is likely that this ineffectiveness will increase movements (and so perturbation) of badgers in the short term even more than the RBCT conditions would.  Despite this level of uncertainty, there is no scientific evaluation of the impact on bTB from the ‘pilot’ culls, or any of the other culls, and the independent panel was only asked to report on the first year of culls.

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


Photo: Badgers by Colin Varndell



Badger trap by Gordon McGlone GWT

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 though supplies have not been available in 2016 and 2017 due to a world shortage, they are expected to be again in 2018.
  • 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 vaccination programme, over several years in each site, 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 involves adult badgers and cubs being humanely trapped and vaccinated by licensed DWT operators, revisiting the same area annually for several years to ensure the majority of the local population has been vaccinated.

We are vaccinating badgers on several DWT reserves, where cattle and badgers are likely to come into contact and where there is control of large parts of the badgers’ territories by ourselves or sympathetic owners. In 2018 we hope to recommence vaccination and will review each area to plan ongoing vaccination. We started the programme in 2013 and, thanks to generous donations, were able to expand it before the vaccine supply was interrupted.

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.


Photo: Badger trap by Gordon McGlone GWT

How you can help

How you can help

Badger by WildStockWith your support we can significantly increase the knowledge base on the practical use of badger BCG vaccine, whilst helping to control bTB in badgers, and so reducing the likelihood that they either pass bTB to or catch it from cattle. We need to raise £50,950 to cover the costs of the vaccination programme for several nature reserves, each running for a five year programme.  We started the programme in 2013 and, thanks to generous donations, have been able to expand it since then.

Programme costs:

Year 1 capital and set-up costs: £6,550
Year 1 implementation costs: 9,000
Year 2-7 costs: Average £5,900 per year

What your donation could buy:

£5 - needles
£14 - one dose of vaccine
£22.50 - one sack of peanuts for bait
£50 - travel costs for a volunteer to help vaccinate
£77 - pressure washer hire for cleaning traps after each round of vaccination
£100 - each trap
£130 - trail camera for badger surveying
£750 - one APHA training course

Please give as much as you can afford.  Each area vaccinated needs to be covered for five years, any money not spent on the first tranche of sites will be used to extend the programme to other reserves in future years or for follow-up management of vaccinated sites.


Photo: Badger by WildStock


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