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02/12/2007 Archived Entry: "Badgers"
Upon the route of my morning walk recently I came across the dead body of a female badger. She had been killed shortly beforehand by a motor vehicle, suffering severe head injuries. Someone had moved the body off the carriageway and onto the narrow verge, but she lay clearly within the sight of passing motorists and other road users.
This was the second badger to be killed on that stretch of road within the last six or seven months. There is clear evidence of a well-used badger route at that point where badgers cross the carriageway and you can see where their path disappears into undergrowth on the opposite verge. The badgers regularly use this route at night when they go foraging and to find water.
The problem is that they are slow-moving creatures without a great deal of road sense, and in the darkness, against the background of a tarmac road surface, they are very difficult to see. Not surprisingly, therefore, lots are killed by moving vehicles and in fact this is the major cause of death within the badger population.
In wondering how to dispose of the remains, I contacted a friend who voluntarily collects the bodies of dead badgers for disposal. Unfortunately, on this occasion, he couldn't help because his freezer cabinet was full of dead badgers, all killed by passing traffic, and when he contacted a local university which carries out research on such dead creatures, and to whom he sends his trophies, he was told they could not cope either. Their freezer cabinets were also full. As this was within a very small locality, it makes me wonder just how many badgers are killed by traffic in Britain.
One area of research into badgers is the vexed question of bovine tuberculosis. Live badgers are often blamed for spreading the disease to cattle. For example, it can be spread through grazing grass being contaminated by the urine or faeces of infected badgers, by eating cattle feed or drinking water that has been contaminated or by direct contact with dead or dying badgers with advanced tuberculosis.
However, the Badger Trust, formerly the National Federation of Badger Groups, says that the spread of bovine tuberculosis is due to the 14 million annual movements of cattle, not badgers. It points out that even in hotspots of the disease, eight out of nine badgers are not affected by TB. To suggest wholesale gassing of badgers would therefore result in the destruction of thousands of healthy animals.
Research has shown that when infected cattle are moved into a previously "clean" area, then the disease does spread to that locality, albeit that its greatest spread is in areas already affected. There are demands for the Government to take action and cull infected badgers by gassing them whilst protecting the healthy ones. I am not quite sure how that could be achieved.
Bovine tuberculosis can affect other animals – it has been discovered in wild deer, but also in a very small number of cats, dogs and pigs. But it seems the battle to determine who or what precisely is responsible is by no means over.
And finally, I removed the carcase to the depths of a nearby wood where nature would deal with it most effectively. …