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Promiscuous badgers 'are adding to TB risk', say Cornwall academics

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 29, 2012

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Promiscuous badgers that 'sleep around' are spreading bovine tuberculosis, according to a team of academics from Cornwall.

Sleeping away from the family home is linked to health risks for badgers, reveals the new research by scientists at the University of Exeter's Tremough Campus at Falmouth.

Researchers working with the Food and Environment Research Agency found that badgers which strayed away from the family home in favour of sleeping in outlying setts were more likely to carry TB.

The 12-month study of 40 wild badgers was funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and could have useful implications for the management of bovine TB.

With pilot culls of badgers in two South West bovine TB hot-spot areas scheduled for early next summer, the findings could prove useful.

The behaviour of individual animals is thought to be a key factor in how the disease is spread among animals and livestock.

The work was carried out by Dr Nicola Weber, of the University of Exeter's Cornwall Campus, who said: "At a time when stopping the spread of TB is vital for farming, it's crucial to understand all of the factors involved in the transmission of the disease. Our research found that some individual badgers are more likely to sleep in setts in the outskirts of their territory. These individuals may be coming into contact with other sources of infection more frequently, meaning they could be more likely to both contract and to spread the disease, either to other badgers or to cattle."

Dr Weber attached electronic surveillance collars to badgers from eight groups at Woodchester Park in Gloucestershire, where the badger population is naturally infected with TB. Scientists selected a sample of 40 badgers from across the groups to provide a representative sample of age and gender.

In the study, each group had a territory made up of one or two main setts, which are used as the primary year-round underground den. They also had between three and eight outlying setts, which were occupied less frequently. The badgers were monitored for 28 consecutive days per season for one year to investigate how patterns differed between individuals.

Professor Robbie McDonald, of the University of Exeter, said: "Badgers occupying outlying dens are most likely to be looking for a mate, or defending their group territories. We think they acquire infection as a result of living on the periphery and contacting more individuals from other social groups, rather than because they are ostracised as a result of contracting the disease.

"It would be valuable to test the relationship between behaviour and infection more thoroughly."

Last year bovine TB caused the death of 26,000 cattle, bringing anguish to farmers and costing the taxpayer millions of pounds in compensation.

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  • josdave  |  December 31 2012, 5:45PM

    I wonder how much taxpayers money was wasted on this "research".

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  • conundrum  |  December 30 2012, 4:28PM

    Phew! That's a relief, I was getting worried: the WMN hasn't had a 'Let's kill badgers' article for quite a few days now. No need to worry of course, they're back on track here with another shocker that not only keeps the propaganda going but also manages to imply that badgers have moral failings too. Future articles to include: 'Badgers undermining fabric of society' 'Huge families of immigrant badgers living on benefits in luxury setts..... 'Badgers are pure evil'....'Badgers will destroy life on earth'....... 'Badgers ate my baby' (oh, no sorry that's dingoes )

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  • eyeopener  |  December 29 2012, 10:09PM

    oOOOh look all my red arrows have gone! Odd how one can comment on arrow manipulation and suddenly they go again :))

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  • eyeopener  |  December 29 2012, 10:07PM

    Hello again 2ladybugs I wondered if I might see you in here :)

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  • Phil_lip  |  December 29 2012, 9:39PM

    lhasa27 the 150 you bring up are only the ones that are larger than the size of a small ant, so is grossly under-estimated. A targeted approach is right AtrixMan but immunisation is a far better way to target than to just go out and cull another species, even if they go out and target the 2-4 year old males (mainly) that are looking for new territory they will still open a massive void that the more established badgers will soon fill as their broods get larger with more resources and larger territory at hand.

  • 2ladybugs  |  December 29 2012, 9:36PM

    So does that mean that if you don't get ANY arrows that people think you are as insignificant as your comments?

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  • eyeopener  |  December 29 2012, 9:04PM

    I take the red arrows as a compliment. People do not 'red arrow', posts they feel are insignificant. The green arrows however I view with suspicion. The arrow manipulators either believe that TIS don't mind if the arrows are manipulated and feel emboldened by that (I suspect that TIS will crack down at some point and then they will have a shock, OR they haven't realised how the TCP/IP protocol works and that they are leaving electronic footprints in the shape of IP Addresses every time they do it. The more its done, the more you reveal to others how weak your argument is. Is it too much to have faith that the readers might vote for you on a genuine basis? The hardest thing to fake, are the readers comments that agree with you; and thats where I look to gauge how the discussion is going. :))

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  • eyeopener  |  December 29 2012, 8:23PM

    Promiscuous badgers perish the thought! Is this the moment to promote Badger Marraige? I have to agree with Charles at the moment. "The ONLY time you can be sure that a badger was or was not carrying, spreading and infected by M.bovis (except for the obviously clinically sick) is at autopsy, post mortem." This article provides food for thought and I will be interested to discover the diagnostic methods employed.

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  • lhasa27  |  December 29 2012, 5:43PM

    We as a species don't need to eat beef and apart from when we are children actually don't need milk. Sheer selfish indulgence. Bad for health, bad for the animals incolved, bad for the planet. Stop blaming the badgers for Mankind's gluttony. Heard on World Service the other night, 150 species are now becoming extinct every single day mainly because of Human activity. Says it all as far as I'm concerned

  • Lafrowda  |  December 29 2012, 1:50PM

    It applies to humans as well but with very different diseases, but we have an education system and a Government that undermines monogamy at every opportunity.

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