2017 Badger TB Vaccination Deployment

Project Overview

Ambios has been delivering a badgerTB vaccination project across the Sharpham Estate since 2014.  Unfortunately no vaccine is available for 2017.  Vaccination involves humane cage trapping badgers and a simple vaccine injection before release.  Cage trapping can take 7 nights – moving bait in small steps from an initial point of ‘take up’ into the back of the trap where the mechanism for capture can be activated by the visiting badger.  If it is possible to reduce the amount of time taken for the bait-to-trapping process then saving can be made on time and resources.  During the summer of 2017 we will use experimental approach to determine the distance bait can be moved while still achieving ‘take up’ (i.e. consecutive nights of badgers taking the bait as it moves towards a trap).   We are also aware that non-target species such as grey squirrel will interfere with bait before badgers can discover it which leads to delays and loss of efficiency in making badger captures.  We will investigation the type of bait (and odour) in order to explore ways to reducing non-target species interactions.

Background

Through badger TB vaccination on the Sharpham Estate we will increase the proportion of badgers that are given a degree of protection from this infection. We aim to make it increasingly hard for TB to maintain itself within the local badger population, thus providing ‘herd immunity’, a concept used in human-immunisation programmes). Badger vaccination is scientifically valid but not a ‘quick win’. The benefits will take some years to realise and TB infection can still find its way to cattle via other routes. However the longer any programme of vaccination is sustained the higher the probability of a successful outcome.  We are also working to better understand how many  badgers there are across the Sharpham Estate.  In 2014 & 2015 we vaccinated a total of 21 badgers across the Estate, a significant step towards realising our aim.

2017 Focus

To support our work by making efficiency gains when delivering our badger vaccination project we are aiming to answer the following questions:

 

  1. How far can badger bait be moved in one step/or one night?
  2. Does the type of bait (and odour) affect this distance?

 

Research methods

An initial survey of badger activity will be undertaken to establish where best to place 18 experimental test locations that are on existing badger pathways and have a suitable place nearby to put a badger trap.  Different social group territories may be used.  Detailed experimental design will be considered and confirmed during this survey period but is likely to require baiting each location for several nights, moving bait each night to see if the badgers ‘follow’ the bait and attempting to witness this activity using camera traps.

Outputs

The data will be explored and analysed for the year of operation and in the context of previously existing data year.  Trainees will make a presentation on this year of results in comparison other available data to the Ambios Team and invited guests.

Our aspiration could be to produce a joint-authorship paper aimed at a suitable journey.  This acts depends on  trainees.