Magazine article Science News

Badger Refugees Complicate Culling

Magazine article Science News

Badger Refugees Complicate Culling

Article excerpt

European badgers can catch and spread the form of tuberculosis that strikes mainly cattle, but farmers and animal enthusiasts have debated whether killing badgers would protect herds. Two studies now reconcile earlier contradictory findings.

New results from a study in Britain suggest that the boundaries of a study area make a difference, says Christi A. Donnelly of Imperial College London. She and her colleagues looked inside 10 100-kilometer-square culling zones where badgers had been removed, regardless of whether or not cattle were infected. There they found a 19 percent reduction in bovine-TB incidence in the cattle. Yet when the researchers looked at land surrounding the culling zones, they saw a 29 percent TB increase. The government-funded study's results will appear in an upcoming Nature.

A recent test of badger removal in Ireland, which didn't look beyond the culling zones, found a drop in cattle-TB incidence. However, earlier results from a different part of the British study had looked at areas in which badgers were killed only if a farm had TB infections. These study areas included both those farms and their surroundings. The culling raised TB incidence in each overall area (SN: 11/29/03, p. 349).

A second new analysis suggests how killing badgers can boost TB around a culling area. Cutting the population upsets badger society, says Rosie Woodroffe of the University of California, Davis. She looked at badgers in the same study areas that were in the new TB-incidence analysis. After a culling, surviving badgers expand their territories and wander far afield, spreading disease, she and her colleagues report in an upcoming Journal of Applied Ecology. …

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