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Welfare of badgers (Meles meles) subjected to culling: patterns of trap-related injury

Woodroffe, R. and Bourne, F.J. and Cox, D.R. and Donnelly, C.A. and Gettinby, G. and McInerney, J.P. and Morrison, W.I. (2005) Welfare of badgers (Meles meles) subjected to culling: patterns of trap-related injury. Animal welfare, 14 (1). pp. 11-17. ISSN 0962-7286

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Abstract

For over 25 years, European badgers (Meles meles) have been subject to culling in Britain in attempts to limit the spread of tuberculosis (TB) to cattle. As part of a far-reaching evaluation of the effectiveness and acceptability of badger culling as a TB control measure, this paper assesses one aspect of the welfare of badger populations subjected to culling: the risk of badgers confined to cage traps prior to despatch becoming injured as a result of rubbing or biting on the cage. In a large-scale field trial, 88% of badgers received no detectable injuries as a result of being confined in the trap. Of those that were injured, 72% received only minor skin abrasions. A minority (1.8% of the total) acquired damage to the teeth or jaws that may have caused serious pain. Although trap rounds were commenced in the early morning, badgers were no more likely to sustain injuries when they remained in traps until later in the day. Coating of cage traps, intended to give the wire mesh a smoother surface, was associated with a reduction in the incidence of minor skin abrasions, although it may have slightly increased the frequency of less common but more serious abrasions. Modification of the door design reduced tooth damage. Traps will be further modified if appropriate. However, all aspects of the conduct of trapping operations must balance badger welfare with concerns for the health and safety of field staff.